Is it possible to forgive too much? If so, what would that look like?

Can you be too fair with people? In other words, is there a situation in which the practice of justice can be too much? I do not think so because all of the moral virtues are good and so the practice of the virtues also is good. What you might have in mind is what we call false-forgiveness. In such a case, people, for example, are continually trying to put on a show of their own high virtue and so they are insincere. Also, if someone distorts forgiving by isolating it so that no justice occurs along with forgiveness, then an unhealthy and hasty reconciliation might occur. So, if the forgiving is genuine and is balanced with justice, then there is no such thing as too much forgiving.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I have started to forgive, but sometimes my anger gets the better of me. I get so angry that I lose focus. What would you recommend?

I would recommend first being aware of the increase in your anger and the degree to which this is happening. Then I would reflect on how the anger itself is compromising you and your health in particular. This can be a motivation to exercise your strong will to continue forgiving. As you continue to persevere in forgiving, then the anger will not be controlling you, but you will be in control of your anger.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

I have begun conversations with someone with whom I have been estranged for about a year. She claims that she wants to forgive and reconcile, but I so often see non-verbal cues such as frowns and even rolled-eyes coming at me. What part of the forgiveness process should I engage when this happens?

I would recommend starting at the beginning and seeing your frustration or anger and then move through the entire process again. This may occur more quickly and with deeper results when you begin again. Only after you have worked through the forgiveness process to some degree might you consider gently talking with her about the discrepancy between her words of forgiving and her non-verbal cues that she is not forgiving.

Have You Been Betrayed? 5 Suggestions for You.

I am thinking of bringing a friend on my forgiveness journey. Please keep in mind that the friend and I actually are forgiving the same person, our employer. Is it a good idea that my forgiveness partner be forgiving the same person as I am forgiving, or should I seek someone else as the forgiveness partner?

I think it would be better in this circumstance to have a forgiveness partner who has not experienced the same injustice as you from the same person. I say this because your mutually-shared resentment might hold one or both of you back from advancing in forgiving or perhaps in giving each other accurate feedback in how well you are progressing in forgiveness. A person who is not angry with the same offender may be more objective in giving you feedback.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I am feeling somewhat “wishy-washy” about forgiving a friend for something she did to me. My question to you is how deeply committed do I have to be in order to actually go ahead and forgive?

Your commitment to forgive, as you see, can vary from very low to very high. This can fluctuate across time, too. A key is this: Are you ready to commit, no matter how small that is, to doing no harm to the one who hurt you? Also, do you see clearly what forgiveness is and is not (it is not excusing or automatically reconciling, for example)? If you have some motivation to do no harm and understand what forgiveness is, then you are ready to move forward in the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Is a Choice.

I think I have forgiven my friend for betraying my trust. I no longer am angry. Yet, I do not trust the person now. Does this mean I have not forgiven?

I think your issue now is one of reconciliation, not forgiveness. To forgive is to offer goodness, as best you can, to those who have not been good to you. Reconciliation is a negotiation strategy of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. If your friend is showing behaviors that are untrustworthy, then your forgiving and not yet reconciling is reasonable. This does not mean that you are unforgiving.

For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?

My friend has a very negative mindset about forgiving. She is skeptical that it has any worth. What do you suggest I do in this case?

She certainly is entitled to her own opinion. At the same time, if that opinion, about what forgiveness is, contains substantial errors, then you might consider talking with her about the basics of forgiveness. To forgive is not to find excuses or to abandon the quest for justice. To forgive is not to necessarily or automatically reconcile. Forgiveness is a choice and should not be forced on her by others. Does she understand all of this? In my experience, those who are highly skeptical of forgiving often misunderstand what it is.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

My friend Samantha betrayed a secret I told her. It took us awhile to get back together. Believe it or not, she did it again! Do I have to forgive her for this second one?

You use the words “have to forgive.” Your decision to forgive is yours and so please do not feel grimly obligated to forgive immediately. It could take time because you obviously are angry. This second betrayal seems to be even more painful than the first one because your friend knew how much the first one hurt. When you are ready to begin the process of forgiveness, you will know. You might want to start the process of forgiving before you approach Samantha about this second injustice and how it has affected you. I say that so that you can approach her with patience and civility.

To learn more, see Forgiveness Is a Choice.

I am wondering about this situation: One of my friends, Alex, was offended by another of my friends, James. In the process of working their way back to each other (and I was present for this), James also pointed out how Alex was partially at fault for their tensions and conflicts. I agree with James. Yet, Alex refuses to believe that he has done any wrong at all. How can we convince Alex that he is partially at fault?

The short answer is that you may not be able to convince Alex. I do think it is a good idea to point out, gently, Alex’s complicity in the tensions. Yet, his acceptance of this is his call. He seems to need time and may be in denial. Denial as a psychological defense can take time to weaken. If he feels even slightly guilty, then this is a good opening for him to explore the possibility of his contributing to the conflicts. If both James and you realize that denial takes time to dissolve, then your patience may pay off in a restored relationship.

For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?

How can I convince my stubborn roommate that he needs to get counseling help so that  he can forgive his ex-girlfriend? He is distracted and very angry.

I admire your intention to help your roommate overcome his resentment. Resentment often can get so painful that it becomes the motivator to seek help in forgiving. Yet, this decision to forgive or not rests with your roommate. It is his call; it is his choice. You could gently ask him what the level of his emotional pain is. If he gives you a truthful answer that it is high, then you might suggest that you have a possible solution to that inner pain—Forgiveness Therapy. Even then, he needs the freedom to either accept or reject the suggestion. Does he truly know what it means to forgive? If he is misunderstanding what forgiveness is, then this could be an impediment to his seeking help.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.