I recently discovered that my wife of 17 years had two affairs in the last 3 years. She would like to reconcile. I came to believe that I should extend compassion to all beings, including my wife, and I would like to forgive her. However, I am not sure I want to take the next step and reconcile. I understand that we are human and everybody makes mistakes, but I feel that I deserve to be respected and treated much better. I think I am respected and treated very well by everybody I know (friends, family, my kids, and my colleagues), except my wife. I also suspect that our values, commitment to truth, and view of morality are very different. I feel that I have to extend compassion to myself as well, and this means that I cannot reconcile. Is this way of thinking a sign that I have not yet forgiven?

Because forgiving and reconciling are not the same, it is possible that you have begun to forgive even if you end up not reconciling. At the same time, your discovery of the affairs is “recent.” Thus, you may still be quite angry and not yet forgiving. I recommend that you take some time to assess your current level of anger toward your wife. If you currently are very angry, this could be clouding your decision regarding to reconcile or not. In other words, you may need some time to process that anger, begin the forgiveness process so that the anger diminishes, and only then ask the important question about reconciliation. If you think that your wife does not share your own sense of morals, this is worth a deep discussion with her prior to making a decision about whether to reconcile. I wish you the best as you work through this challenging issue.

I am an adult who has hurt my mother a number of times when I was a teenager.  I now very much would like to have her forgive me, but I am not sure that she has thought much about forgiveness.  She seems to have accepted who I was as a teen—a very immature young person.  Yet, I would like to see her truly forgive me.  How can I approach her with the idea of forgiveness?

One approach is to take one of the self-help books, such as my The Forgiving Life book published by the American Psychological Association.  I recommend that you read it first.  If you think it is appropriate for your mother, then share it with her and point out some of the sections in the book that proved helpful to you.  Your mother might get interested and, if so, this would give her a chance to work through the forgiveness process.

Learn more at The Forgiving Life.
Continue reading

Do you think that anger can be addictive?

If by addictive you mean the person falls into a pattern that is hard to break, then the answer is yes.  People can fall into behaviors that involve temper, harsh language, and an adrenaline rush.  People who have this pattern can be helped by seeing what in the past has led to an original anger.  If it is an injustice, then forgiveness is appropriate.  Next, the person needs to examine any sense of entitlement or even narcissism that fuels the anger and keeps it going.  After that, the person needs to examine courageously who has been hurt by the anger-pattern and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt by the pattern.

Learn more at Learning to Forgive Others.

My partner has hurt me very deeply.  Now he refuses to get help for his drinking and basically is destroying himself.  How do you forgive someone under these circumstances?

Actually, the forgiveness process will not differ to a great extent when the person is destroying the self.  You might actually forgive for the original offense and then forgive for the situation in which the person now is not working with you to rise above the very challenging situation.  In other words, you can forgive twice and the second one may be harder than the first because the person is not working as a team with you.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

I have forgiven someone who betrayed me and hurt me deeply.  My attitude toward the person now is good.  Yet, I have fear of this person.  What else can I do to move more deeply in forgiveness?

It seems to me that the issue now is not so much forgiveness as it is reconciliation.  Your fear likely is the result of a lack of trust toward the person because of the betrayal.  Reconciliation has to be earned.  Have you talked with the person and has this person understood the offense and now is willing to change?  You need to build some confidence in this person’s behavior and this will come if the person begins to behave in a way as to earn your trust.

Learn more at What Forgiveness Is Not.

Five different people as a group have hurt me.  Do you recommend that I forgive one at a time or do I forgive them as a group?

Have the people played different roles in this group?  For example, was one the leader who started to hurt you and perhaps encouraged others to join?  If so, you probably should forgive one at a time.  I would recommend that you rate the degree of hurt that each person gave to you and start with the one who hurt you the least.  Once you think you have completed the forgiveness process with that person, move up the list to the next person.  Eventually, you will reach the one who has hurt you the most and you will be well-practiced in the process of forgiveness.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

Is the gift-giving to an offending other person a way to prove to yourself that you, indeed, have forgiven?

The gift-giving in its essence is not for the forgiver, but instead is for the one forgiven.  Forgiveness as a moral virtue is concerned with goodness and that goodness flows out of the forgiver to the forgiven.  While the gift-giving can be a sign to you that you have forgiven, that is not its primary function.  The primary function is to do good to the other as a moral act in and of itself.

Learn more about what forgiveness is and is not at What Is Forgiveness?