I always say that if a person is steeped in negative thinking, even such thinking about other people, then he needs something to disturb him to get him out of his negative thought pattern.  If you agree with this, what is a good disturbing situation in your experience that can jolt a person out of negativism?

I think your expression “something to disturb him” is very interesting.  What you mean, I think, is something to get the person’s attention in a powerful way.  Yes, in my experience I have seen this “jolt” as you call it and it is this: an inner pain that becomes uncomfortable and motivates the person to do something about that pain.  Carrying the weight of continual negative thoughts can lead to an abiding sense of anger that turns to resentment.  The resentment then can turn on the one harboring it.  Resentment can turn to fatigue, restless sleep, a lack of exercise, and a general pessimism about people.  This kind of accumulated pain eventually can “jolt” a person into reality: I must do something about this pain.  It is here that some people come to realize that their negative symptoms point back to being treated unjustly, being angry, then overly angry, and then miserable.  It is at that point that many are willing to consider forgiveness as a fresh response to the original injustice……and to the inner pain that has developed as a result of the injustice.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

About three years ago, I forgave my father for abandoning the family when I was just a child, 6-years-old.  Now that I am grown and the pressure is off of him to parent me, here he comes and asks my forgiveness.  To be honest with you, I think it is too late to hear his point of view.  What do you think?

You have forgiven your father for his abandoning your family and you.  I think you now have another situation in which you might consider forgiving your father for coming to you now, as you say, after the pressure is off for his parenting you.  Forgiveness, as you know, is your choice.  Given that you already have forgiven him for his past behavior, you now know the forgiveness pathway for forgiving him for his current issue.  Please keep in mind that he may have a lot of remorse and guilt.  He may not be asking for your forgiveness only because the pressure now is off.  If you see his possible remorse and even anguish, it may help you in your decision to forgive.

For additional information, see 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

What do you think the most common misconception about forgiving is?

I would say the most common misconception is the fear that once people forgive, they think they have to automatically reconcile, ignoring justice or the protection of the self.  This needs to be clarified for many people to begin trusting in the process of forgiving.

For additional information, see What Is Forgiveness?

I see skepticism in people whenever I mention the healing power of forgiveness.  How can I make forgiveness an acceptable part of conversations?

It may help if people see that forgiveness is a moral virtue, as are justice, patience, courage, and love.  We exercise justice in families and groups all the time.  You can ask, “Why, then, can’t we make room for this other moral virtue, forgiveness?”  It would be helpful if you then are attuned to the others’ misconceptions about what, exactly, constitutes this moral virtue of forgiveness:  Do they see forgiving as excusing or ignoring justice?  Clearing up misconceptions usually makes forgiveness more acceptable.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

If you could give me one piece of advice as I ask someone to forgive me for what I have done, what would that be?

For one and only one piece of advice, I would say this:  Once you have asked for forgiveness, please be patient with the person who was hurt.  Do not expect instant forgiving from that person.  Asking for forgiveness requires a humble approach and letting the other person choose when it is the best time to forgive.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

I was in a heated argument with my spouse.  We both needed to ask for forgiveness.  I did, but she refuses to apologize.  What do I do now?

Your spouse likely is still angry and so needs some time.  If she can find it in her heart to forgive you, this may give her the insight that she, too, acted unjustly at that time.  So, if she can forgive you (and your apology likely will help with that), then she may be open to apologizing and thus seeking your forgiveness.

For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.

Right now, I am alone and do not have a supportive person with whom I can do the forgiveness work.  Would you recommend that I wait until I have found such a person before I start the forgiveness process?

This depends on how deeply serious is the injustice against you and your inner reactions.  For example, on a 1-to-10 scale, how angry or sad are you (with a 10 being extreme pain)?  If you are near a 10, then I would recommend a mental health professional who knows Forgiveness Therapy or who is willing to read one of my self-help books (such as Forgiveness Is a Choice) along with you.  If your pain is in the 3 to 5 range, you might consider going ahead with that book yourself and let me, in my printed words, accompany you on the forgiveness journey.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.