You say that we can forgive someone who no longer is living. You also say that when we forgive, we should try to give a gift to the one who offended. How do we go about giving a gift to someone who has died?

You can give such a gift by: a) preserving the person’s good name in the family; b) refraining from using condemning words about that person when with others; c) donate some money to charity in that person’s name; and d) if you are a person of faith, you can pray for the person.

For additional information, see Choose Love, Not Hate.

Is there anything that is unforgivable?

I think you are asking if there are certain persons who are unforgivable. We do not forgive situations, but instead we forgive people. Some people are so hurt by grave injustices by others that they cannot, at least for now, even consider forgiving the people who acted unjustly. This is not necessarily the offended people’s last word on the matter because, months or years later, some of them might change their minds. In my experience, I have never seen particular situations that are so grave that no one has forgiven. I have seen some people from the Holocaust of World War II forgive the Nazis. I have seen people forgive the murderers of their children. So, it does not seem to be the case that there are incidents so horrible that no one forgives.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

I am considering going to a therapist so that I can work on forgiving someone. How can I be sure that it is time to switch psychotherapeutic approaches and focus now on forgiveness?

I think you have to look within and ask this: Have the psychotherapeutic approaches in which you have engaged worked for you? One way to discern this is to ask yourself: On a 1-to-10 scale, how angry am I at a particular person who has been very unjust to me? Let a “1” stand for no anger at all and a “10” stand for so much anger that you can hardly take it. If your answer is in the 8, 9, or 10 range, and if your previous and current psychotherapies have not reduced that resentment, then it may be time to try Forgiveness Therapy.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I want to start working on the theme of forgiving toward one of my parents. I have a therapist with whom I have been working for many years. She says that she has not studied Forgiveness Therapy, but is open to exploring forgiveness with me. What do you suggest under this circumstance?

I recommend that you, personally, first examine one of my self-help books (Forgiveness Is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, or 8 Keys to Forgiveness). See which you prefer. Then bring a copy of the chosen book to your therapist as you also retain a copy. Both of you can work systematically through the book that you choose. Given the therapist’s years of experience in the mental health profession, she should have no problem assisting you on your forgiveness journey.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

If a person is good at forgiving, does this mean that he is a highly developed person?

The answer depends on the definitions of both the term “good” and the term “highly developed person.” If by the term good we mean: a) understands forgiveness accurately; b) practices it consistently; c) has developed a love of this virtue; and d) tries to appropriate forgiving as love for others, then yes, I would say that this is a highly developed person. By “highly developed” I would say that he: a) strives to be good to others in terms of justice, courage, and wisdom in addition to forgiving; b) puts moral virtue above material gain or the rewards and praises from others; and c) has as an end point to his life the betterment of humanity.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness? and The Forgiving Life.

I hear so often, “Forgiveness is for the forgiver.” Is this correct? If so, it seems that forgiveness is a selfish act.

To forgive another person out of the motivation to help the self is not the only kind of motive people have for forgiving. Yes, it is one such motive, but not the only one. In the case of “forgiving for the forgiver,” the one hurt by another is motivated, usually, by a desire to be free from a persistent and uncomfortable resentment. Forgiveness can reduce or even eliminate that resentment and so this is a motivation for good self-care. This is a self-pertaining motive and not necessarily a selfish motive. Other motives for forgiving include helping the offending person to change, improving a relationship, and being faithful to certain religious beliefs that encourage forgiveness.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

What is the difference between letting go of your anger and forgiving a person?

When we forgive, we tend to let go of most or sometimes all of our anger. When we let go of our anger we do not necessarily forgive. For example, we can let go of anger and dismiss a person as unworthy of our respect or love. Forgiveness, on the other hand, strives to respect and love those who have hurt us. Forgiveness never condemns a person for an unjust act. At the same time, forgiveness does acknowledge unjust acts as wrong.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.