In Chapter 5 of your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you talk about overcoming anger. I am wondering: Do I overcome the anger **before** I forgive, or is the anger diminished as I go through the process of forgiveness?

Your anger diminishes as you go through the process of forgiveness. If you think about it, how would you overcome the anger **before** forgiving? There are no known psychological approaches to reduce the anger and keep it away for a very long time other than forgiveness, in my opinion. As an example, relaxation training can reduce anger, but once you are no longer in the relaxed state, and you think about the injustice, the anger can return. Relaxation focuses on anger as a symptom and covers over that symptom in a temporary way. Forgiveness has you confront that anger and heal from it so that when you recall the unjust event and the person, the anger is diminished. This does not mean that all anger vanishes, but it does mean that the anger no longer is in control.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I am a little confused about self forgiveness. You say that you do not forgive your own particular imperfections such as, for example, not being good in sports or being overweight or having a chronically sore knee with which you are frustrated. Why can’t we forgive the less-than-perfect coordination or the weight issue or the knee? It seems that it would help people move on in life.

I say that we do not forgive those issues because forgiveness is centered on **persons** and not on things. You offer your goodness to other persons in the hope that they change. When a person is frustrated by the issues of coordination or weight or a challenging knee, the person can forgive **the self** for the disappointments or even the self-loathing caused by these issues. In other words, you are not focused on the issues as you self-forgive, but instead on yourself as a person. You are welcoming yourself back into the human community because of the self-frustration or self-loathing.

For additional information, see Self-Forgiveness.

Those who are in positions of authority at my work are overbearing and angry. I just can’t see how I can survive this even with forgiveness. After all, I go in every day to their anger and more anger. I feel like giving up. Can you help me?

I hear this very frequently from people who are in challenging marriages as well as difficult work situations. My advice is this: It becomes more imperative that you practice forgiveness every day.

Start the forgiveness process as you make your way into work. Be ready to talk from a position of care and civility as you bear the pain of their anger. As you go home after work, spend some time in forgiving. I know it is hard work, but you now have this challenge and one way to overcome your own anger and frustration is to forgive. Even if you were to leave the company for a new career, your inner world still likely will be disrupted. Forgiveness then can help you even if you are gone from your current position. Also, your consistent practice of forgiving may help you to endure and overcome the frustration as you stay in your current position.

For additional information, see Choose Love, Not Hate.

How do you know that you can skip a step in your Process Model of forgiveness without it affecting the success of that process?

We tend to rely on common sense in this situation. For example, in the Uncovering Phase, one unit in the process is to see if you have been comparing yourself with the offending person, with the false conclusion that you are less of a person than the other. If you do not make such comparisons, then you can skip that step. There are parts of the forgiveness process that seem essential to us such as:

  • seeing the other person as more than the hurtful actions against you;
  • being aware of a softened heart within you as you progress in forgiveness;
  • bear the pain of what happened so that you do not pass that pain back to the offending person or to others.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I hurt someone and now I feel guilty. What are some pointers you can give me to seek forgiveness for what I did?

As you seek forgiveness you can:

  • practice humility, that insight that you are not perfect.
  • You certainly are deserving of respect because all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.
  • You can apologize and then
  • wait patiently for the other to consider forgiving. Just because you are ready to receive the other’s forgiveness does not mean that the other is on the same timeline.
  • Change the behavior that led to the difficulty.
  • Then go in peace knowing you are doing your best in this.

For additional information, see: Learning to Forgive Others.

Can you show me one culture in which forgiving is expressed differently than in the United States?

Yes. There is a film entitled, Fambul Tok, in which small communities in Sierra Leone, Africa come together around a bonfire at night. The aggrieved person states the injustice and then the offending person emerges to explain the injustice from that vantage point. They express the seeking and the granting of forgiveness. This is done in front of the community. It is important to keep this in mind: This ritual does not change what forgiveness **is.** It changes how forgiveness is **expressed** relative to how we usually go about forgiving in the United States.

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

I am someone who is part of what they call the “minority” in my country. Quite frankly, I am unhappy with it, with the subtle “put-downs” and the like. People in my country have the expression of, “Fight for justice.” So, then, what place is left for forgiving?

We need to realize that forgiveness and justice are not mutually exclusive. Some people believe that to forgive is to take too soft an approach in striving for justice. In other words, they think that to forgive is to lose what they deserve. Yet, this definitely need not be the case. As people forgive, they can see more clearly through the fog of anger. They can see what is truly fair and then ask for that fairness in a way that is civil. They just might have a better chance of getting fairness than if they let anger dictate how they respond and for what they ask.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.