Hi Dr. Enright, I’m enjoying your 8 steps book. I’ve also been enjoying learning about self-compassion from the works by Kristin Neff. She has a 20 minute self-guided meditation which I often practice. I wonder if you have something similar for forgiveness? I really appreciate the work you’ve done!

While we do not have a specific 20-minute reflection for forgiveness, we do have exercises that can be done on a regular basis in the self-help book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, an Amazon.com best seller. There are further exercises in the two other self-help books, The Forgiving Life and 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

Additional information about all three books is available in the IFI Store.

In your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you say, “Forgiveness offers the best hope of creating a new fairness out of the past unfairness.”  Why would fairness be given to someone who has been constantly unfair to me over the years?

When you forgive, you reduce resentment and therefore you reduce any tendency of wanting to get even or to seek revenge.  Being fair is the right way to live, avoiding regret and guilt over acting unfairly toward others.  If you start practicing forgiveness toward the one who hurt you (presuming that you do interact with one another), then this opens the door to greater inner peace for you.  It opens the door for a genuine relationship of fairness if the other sees the great gift you are giving by offering forgiveness.  If the other sees and appreciates your gift, then this could alter the person’s behavior toward greater fairness and reconciliation.

I have forgiven my father for some insensitive treatment of me when I was a child.  Yet, when I sometimes think of my father and those times, I still am sad.  Does this mean that I have not forgiven?

Forgiveness does not necessarily take away all of the sadness because you did have a rough time during childhood.  It is part of your history and you cannot reverse what happened.  Please keep in mind that some sadness is normal.  Forgiving can help reduce the sadness, and can reduce the resentment that can accompany sadness.  Living with some occasional sadness is very different than living with the constant mixture of deep sadness and anger.

Lately, when I have an argument with my boyfriend, I find myself bringing up old issues that I thought were behind me, for which I thought I had forgiven him.  Do you think I truly have forgiven him for the past issues or not, given that I tend to bring them up?

It seems to me that you have begun the process of forgiving, because you state that forgiveness is part of you now.  At the same time, I would recommend more forgiving work toward your boyfriend for those past events so that you can leave them in the past.  Please keep in mind that still feeling some pain from past injustices is normal.  It is the excessive anger from those incidents that you want to diminish and more forgiving should accomplish that in you.

I have been deeply hurt by unjust family situations.  This actually has changed who I am as a person.  I now am less compassionate toward others.  Should I just accept who I am now or do I try to change?  As I try to forgive, I think I will begin to change as a person and I do not like that idea.  What worries me is this: If I start to change this one thing, then off I go changing other things until I no longer am the same person.  This scares me.

Whether or not you try to become more compassionate, one thing still is likely to happen: You will change.  Life is about developing and therefore we do not stay static.  You have been hurt and your trust has been damaged.  As you practice forgiving, you are correct, you likely will change.  You likely will become more compassionate and more trusting in general (but not necessarily toward those whom you should not trust).  If you notice, those characteristics of compassion and trust are positive developments.  Forgiveness could help change you in very good ways.  Try to enjoy the positive transformation.

From your own experience, what is the worst injustice you have ever seen when a person actually forgives?

There are two: Marietta Jaeger, who forgave the murderer of her young daughter.  This is documented in a film, From Fury to Forgiveness, which appeared on television in the 1990’s.  The other is Eva Moses Kor, who was part of the “twin experiments” at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and who forgave the Nazis.  This is documented in the film, Forgiving Dr. Mengele.

I recently read an article about “50 children under the care of the state were victims of substantiated sexual abuse.” I’m tired of reading about the sex abuse happening in our society. Is there a connection to anger, lack of forgiveness to sex offenders? If there is a connection what about forgiveness therapy for sex offenders; can it help in lowering the chance of re-offending? If so, can forgiveness therapy/curriculum in schools, anger management programs, prisons etc possibly lower the incidences of sex abuse?

It has been estimated that about 30% of sex offenders have been sexually abused prior to their crimes. Thus, your point that some sex offenders might benefit from Forgiveness Therapy is valid. It is valid for about a third of this population.  The other 70% may be suffering from narcissism, the failure to see the personhood in others, and other challenges.  Forgiveness Therapy may not be effective in these other cases, but if such therapy could aid a third of this population, that would be significant assistance.