Is it possible for someone to actually improve in forgiveness? If so what do you suggest as some keys for me to do that?

Forgiveness is not a superficial action (such as saying, “It’s ok” when someone is unfair to you). Instead, it is a moral virtue, as is justice and kindness and love. Aristotle told us thousands of years ago that one challenge in life is to become more perfected in the virtues. In other words, we do grow more proficient in our understanding and expression of the virtues, but only if we practice them. It is a struggle to grow in any virtue, including forgiveness. So, first be aware that you can grow in this virtue. Then be willing to practice it, with the goal of maturing in love, which is what forgiveness is (loving those who are unkind to us). You need a strong will to keep persevering in the struggle to grow in forgiveness. In sum, you need: understanding of what forgiveness is, practice, a strong will, and keeping your eye fixed on the goal of improving in love a little more each day.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

How can I keep the light of forgiveness burning in my heart? There are so many distractions in contemporary culture. Forgiveness could be easily forgotten.

A key is this: Know that what you call “the light of forgiveness” is important to you. Know further that it could fade in you if you do not give it the attention it deserves. Aristotle emphasized practice as a way to grow in the virtues. The more you practice forgiveness, the better you become at it. The better you become at it, then the more you develop what Aristotle called a love for the virtue.

In my book, The Forgiving Life, I focus on what I call the strong will. You need this strong will to persevere in the practice of forgiveness, even though all around you are opportunities to ignore forgiveness and seek pleasure to avoid pain. Forgiveness can be painful work, but the pain, in my view, is far less than carrying the pain of deep resentment for many years.

I wish you the best in your persevering journey to develop a love of the virtue of forgiveness.

Learn more at The Forgiving Life.

If I forgive another, I am worried that I then will no longer see the truth: What they did was wrong. Can you help me with this?

There is a large difference between forgiving people and excusing their behavior. Forgiving necessitates this: You continue to see their actions as wrong, but those actions no longer are the exclusive or primary way in which you think about those people. You begin to see them as far more than their actions against you. Again, you do not invalidate the wrong, but you make room in your heart for the person as person. Reconciliation then is possible if they are trustworthy and do not continue to harm you.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I forgave my ex-partner and all was forgiven and forgotten. This was years ago. All of a sudden, I find myself angry all over again after three years. Did I not go through the forgiveness process the first time?

Forgiving others is not a perfect straight line that gets you to the end of anger and then all anger is finished. The late Lewis Smedes said that forgiving is an imperfect process for imperfect people. Sometimes anger does resurface and it is good to once again go through the forgiveness process. This time, it likely will be a shorter journey, well worth your time and effort. Anger does not necessarily go away completely and so please be gentle with yourself as you forgive again. You may have to do this in the future and this is not unusual.

For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.

I had an argument with a friend. As I felt badly about this, I texted him and apologized. I never heard back from him. I am now angry with him about ignoring me. What else might I have done to make this better?

Please realize that you are not responsible for his behavior. You did a kind act in apologizing. You might wait some more because his forgiving is not necessarily on your timeline for this. He simply may need more time. Yet, how he responds ultimately is up to him. If he never responds, then I agree with you: You may have to forgive him for that. Also, you should go in peace knowing that you have done what you can to renew the friendship.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

What if the other person insists that I did wrong, but I examine my conscience and see that no wrong was committed. Furthermore, I know I did not intend wrong toward that person. I see the action as reasonable. What do I do then?

Under this circumstance, you might want to say something like this, “I am sorry that my actions caused you such stress.” Notice that you are not saying that **you** caused the stress. Your **actions** have been stressful for that person. There is a large distinction between **you as a person** and your **actions.** So, you can feel sorry that the other is responding to your actions in such an intense way while at the same time not admitting to actual wrongdoing.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

How can I know when I have done wrong so that I can apologize? Sometimes I am not sure if I have simply made a mistake or actually done wrong. Can you help me identify legitimate wrongs so I can start the seeking-forgiveness process?

Your conscience is one way for you to judge wrongdoing from a simple mistake. Your conscience leads you to a sense of feeling guilty when you do wrong compared to simply being imperfect in making a mistake. Also, think of your intent in what you did. Did you deliberately decide to go against your own standards or not? If you intended to do wrong, and then acted on that desire, then you engaged in wrongdoing.

Another area is the action itself. Some actions are wrong in and of themselves, such as disrespecting another person. So, conscience, intention, and action all can help you decide if you have done wrong. One area that is not as straightforward is the other’s reactions to you. Sometimes, for example, a person will be very angry with you and tell you that you did wrong. If, however, your conscience is not bothering you on those actions and if you truly did not intend to do wrong, then the other may be over-reacting.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?