It seems to me that mercy and forgiveness are different. In mercy, one person is higher than another and has pity on the one who is hurting. In forgiveness, you level the moral playing field and each are equal in their humanity. Would you please clarify for me?

Actually, forgiveness is a moral virtue that flows from mercy and mercy flows from the moral virtue of love. Yes, you are correct that when a person is showing mercy toward another, the one who is merciful is helping someone in distress. This, however, does not at all make the one who extends mercy somehow higher in humanity than the one who is in pain. They are equal as **persons** even though their **circumstances** differ.

So, to summarize, love in the Greek sense of agape, is to serve others for the others’ sake. In the serving, one may have to endure pain and persevere and actually suffer in such serving. This, in other words, does not put the one who is serving in a higher position. Mercy is a particular form of love in which the one showing mercy tries to alleviate the pain of another, which can cause the mercy-worker to feel pain and experience humility in the serving, thus leveling the moral playing field in that this is one person helping another person. Forgiveness is a special case of mercy in that the forgiver tries to serve the offending person by alleviating his or her pain, misunderstanding, and even moral weakness by helping the one who caused pain and who may be in pain because of the unjust action. In each case of love, mercy, and forgiveness, the moral virtue is one **person** serving another **person or persons** and each is equal in their personhood.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

I feel that my friend deserves love and forgiveness, but I do not feel ready to forgive. Have I actually started the forgiveness process if I at least feel in my heart that she deserves my love?

Yes, I do think that you are on the path of forgiveness when you realize that your friend deserves your love. I say that because one of the first steps of forgiveness is to commit to doing no harm to the one who hurt you. When you say that your friend deserves your love, it seems to me that you will not then deliberately do her harm, even if you are not feeling or expressing love just yet toward her. Love is a more advanced form of forgiveness than committing to doing no harm. This is the case because doing no harm is refraining from the negative; love is deliberately instituting the positive toward your friend.

Learn more at 8 Reasons to Forgive.

In your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you are critical of relaxation techniques relative to forgiveness. Would you please elaborate on that for me?

Relaxation is important and so I am not criticizing it as a way of reducing tension. My critique comes when mental health professionals use relaxation as the primary way of reducing resentment. Relaxation can reduce tension but it cannot cure resentment, or a persistent ill will toward another person or persons who acted unfairly. Why? It is because once the person is finished with the relaxation exercise, the resentment likely will return. Forgiveness, on the other hand, can directly target the resentment so that empathy and compassion toward the other person grow in the heart, literally reducing or eliminating the resentment.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

Which is better: forgiving for my own well-being or forgiving for the sake of the other person who was offensive?

When you forgive in a genuine way, it always is for the other. Why? This is because forgiveness, as a moral virtue, is other-focused. A motivation to forgive may be one’s own emotional, physical, and relational well-being. This is not dishonorable because, if you are hurting, it is reasonable to try to alleviate the pain. If one is not focused at all on the other person during the process, then this is not a true forgiveness process.

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

Mother Forgives Son’s Killer

WOODTV.COM, Grand Rapids, MI – A 23-year-old man who shot and killed a teenager last year learned at his sentencing earlier this week that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. He also learned that the teenager’s mother has forgiven him for his crime.

“In order to get through this process, I had to forgive you,” said Javika Hawkins, mother of Andre Hawkins, the teen shot in a case of mistaken identity. “And I have forgiven you from the bottom of my heart.”

Vicente Rodriguez-Ortiz was convicted of murdering two people 10-months apart last year including 17-year-old Andre, someone he thought was romantically involved with his ex-girlfriend. As required by Michigan law, his mandatory sentence was life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“As a mother, you’re a child to me and in my heart, I have no anger or bitterness toward you,” Javika said in a tear-filled statement at Rodriguez-Ortiz’s sentencing April 23. “As a mom, I just want to hug you because I know there is something that’s not connected that made you feel so angry for a person you didn’t know.”

The grace with which Javika Hawkins delivered her words stunned those gathered in the Kent County Circuit courtroom.

“I just really want other young kids to really take this to heart,” she added. “Somebody’s innocent life was taken over a jealous rage.”

Read more at:
  • Mom forgiving son’s killer: “I just want to hug you.”
  • Mother of teen killed by double-murderer offers forgiveness at sentencing

I think that getting rid of one’s anger is not a good thing if the goal is to achieve justice. Don’t we need some anger as a motivator to get up and do something about continual put-downs by others?

Anger in the short run is seen as reasonable because the person is basically saying, “What you did was wrong. I am a person worthy of respect and that is what I am asking of you.” At the same time, if this anger stays with a person, deepens, and lasts for many months, it can be counter-productive. One then might demand too much from the other. One might turn the quest for justice into a motivation to seek revenge and hurt the other. So, we have to be careful when discussing the benefits of anger. There are such benefits in the short-run, but anger has a way of taking up residence in the human heart if we are not careful and thus the one harboring the anger can be damaged.

Learn more at Why Forgive?

In my experience, I find that mental health professionals emphasize catharsis or “getting the anger off one’s chest.” I now am wondering if this is an incomplete approach to good treatment. What do you think?

Catharsis as the exclusive end in and of itself is not advised when the anger is deep and long-lasting. This is because the venting of anger does not cure the anger in the vast majority of cases. Taking some time to be aware of the anger, and the expression of it within temperate (reasonable) bounds in the short-run, can help the client to be aware of the depth of that anger. The cure for the anger, in other words the deep reduction in that anger, is forgiveness, shown scientifically to be the case (see Enright & Fitzgibbons, Forgiveness Therapy, 2015).