Generalizing from the Particular to the Universal

You know how it goes.  You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again.  The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.

You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted.  This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.

Generalization.  It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false.  For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next.  The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch.  On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s behavior.  In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.

When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others.  Not everyone is out to hurt you.  Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate.  Has this happened to you?

If so, it is time to fight back against this.  Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:

I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this.  We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded.  Not all are out to wound me.

Robert

A Specific Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk Couple 2-out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. Let the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing in.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in the virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.

Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my new book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert

Why Forgiveness Education Matters

We have forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers, parents, and school counselors in our Store. The guides show you, step-by-step, how to implement forgiveness education for about one hour Forgiveness Blocksa week or less to children as young as age 4 or as old as age 17. The medium for instructing students on forgiveness is through stories. We have summaries of these stories for your examination and use as you wish.

Our research shows that as students learn about forgiveness, they become less angry and can increase in academic achievement. After all, if someone is fuming internally, it is hard to pay attention to the regular school subjects.

Take a look below at what teachers in Milwaukee’s central-city are saying after teaching forgiveness for 12 to 15 weeks, about one hour a week:

Highlights of the evaluations (four-year averages) are as follows:

91% of the teachers found the forgiveness curriculum materials easy to use.

75% of the teachers observed that, school 5as a whole, the students decreased in anger as a result of learning about forgiveness.

• 78% of the teachers observed that the students increased in cooperation as a result of learning about forgiveness.

• 71% of the teachers observed that, as a whole, the students improved in their academic achievement as a result of learning about forgiveness.

• 91% of the teachers thought that they became a better overall instructor as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.

• 93% of the teachers thought that they became a better person as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.

• 84% of the teachers thought that their classrooms as a whole began to function better as a result of the forgiveness curriculum.

• 76% of the teachers thought that the school as a whole began to show improvement because of the forgiveness education program.

Robert

I found out on the 12 Jan 2015 my wife has had an affair since early 2013 and she has ended it as soon as i found out. She is deeply remorseful. I believe the bible & your advice has helped me to forgive her on 17 Feb 2015. However, thoughts come at me of what she has done and this causes hurt and pain. What advice can you give to help me with my pain?

First, I want to congratulate you on your wisdom in turning to forgiveness as soon as you did. Please keep in mind that a period of confusion and anger is normal and so please do not be dismayed when these feelings come to you. Forgiveness is a process and it can take time.

You say you read the Bible and so I am presuming that you are a Christian. If so, then you can read in Genesis 1 that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. This includes both you and your wife.  I would urge you to reflect on that whenever you are feeling deep pain: Both of us are sinners and we are both made in the image and likeness of God.

Building trust is not the same as forgiving. Your wife now needs to show, within reason, that she truly is over the affair. Try to see small steps in her that are leading to remorse and a willingness to turn her life around and to turn to your marriage. In time, as forgiveness helps you to be open to trust, your trust will start to grow. For now, please remember: You are both made in the image and likeness of God. You are both sinners. Jesus’ redemption is for both of you.

Excerpt on Self-Forgiveness from The Forgiving Life:

One of the most frequent questions I receive concerns the process of forgiving yourself. The short answer is, yes, you can forgive yourself with certain cautions in mind.Self Forgiveness

First, when you forgive yourself, you are both the offended one and the offender. And we rarely offend ourselves in isolation. Thus, you should go and make amends with those who also were offended by your actions. This includes asking for forgiveness, changing your behavior and making recompense where this is reasonable.

After that, as you turn your attention to forgiving yourself please keep this in mind—What you have been offering to others in forgiving them (gentleness, kindness, patience, respect, and moral love), you can and should offer to yourself.

The Forgiving Life, (APA Lifetools), Robert D. Enright (2012-07-05), American Psychological Association.

Two Purposes for You Toward Your Offender

Heart in clouds1) You have a goal of helping the one who hurt you to grow in character. By your love, you can now gently ask something of him or her. What will you ask of him or her, after you have forgiven (so that you can approach this person in love)?

2) You have a goal of trying as best you can to reconcile with the person who hurt you. Is he or she remorseful (with an inner sorrow) and repentant (as he or she expresses this)? Even if the answer is “no,” if he or she is not harmful to you, you can remain in his or her presence with the hope that your love will help the person grow in insight so that he or she changes for the better.
Robert

On the Accumulation of Wounds

Has the struggle with the injustice made you tired? Let us say that you have 10 points of energy to get through each day. How many of those points of energy do you use fighting (even subconsciously) the injustice as an internal struggle? Even if you are giving 1 or 2 points of your energy each day to this, it is too much and could be considered another wound for you.
Change

When you consider the person and the situation now under consideration, do you see any changes in your life that were either a direct or indirect consequence of the person’s injustice? In what way did your life change that led to greater struggle for you? On our 0-to-10 scale, how great a change was there in your life as a result of the injustice? Let a 0 stand for no change whatsoever, a 5 stand for moderate change in your life, and a 10 stand for dramatic change in your life. Your answer will help you determine whether this is another wound for you. As you can see, the wounds from the original injustice have a way of accumulating and adding to your suffering.

Excerpt from the book The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools), Robert D. Enright (2012-07-05).  (Kindle Locations 2750-2753). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 2784-2788). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.