On Being Treated Unfairly: Don’t Let Them Win Twice!

So often when I talk with people who have suffered severe injustices, they are not ready to forgive.  This is a normal reaction because a time of anger and adjustment to what happened is important.  Forgiveness never should be rushed or pushed onto anyone.  To the injured does the decision to forgive belong.
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Within the past few weeks, I was talking with a teenager who lives under very trying circumstances.  He lives on the West Coast of the United States.  He has a history of violence against others because “this is the way you survive,” he told me.  “Forgiveness is a sign of weakness,” he added.  “You just can’t imagine what my family would say if I came home and proclaimed that I am forgiving those who hurt me.  They would get a big laugh out of this.”
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Yet, his strategies are not necessarily working for him.  He is in a special program and could be expelled from his school and even from his school district.  Three of his relatives are in maximum security prison.  I hope we can keep him from following them.
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Dr. Robert Enright

What strikes me in particular about this young man is his apparent kindness.  He does not have angry eyes.  He talks in a respectful way to me.  We are engaged in a conversation, not engaged in a battle of wills.  He wants to learn more about forgiveness, but he knows he could pay a dear price for practicing it, especially if his family and peers begin to mock him.

“You can forgive and not tell anyone you did this, not even the one who hut you,” I said.  “Those you forgive will know by how you respond to them, by how you are civil to them.  You do not have to use the word, ‘forgive.’”

“I need my anger,” was his studied response.

Jacqueline Song
Source: Jacqueline Song
“Don’t let them win twice!” I said to him.  “You have been hurt by others’ actions.  Now you are carrying around the **effects** of those injustices against you.  In your hurt, you are hurting others.  In your hurt, you are being told over and over that you are the one who needs rehabilitation.  You are the one being stereotyped.”
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He looked at me with insightful eyes.  He wanted to learn more.
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“Yes, you have been hurt by others.  Now you are hurting others.  You are even hurting yourself by your actions. Do you see how those who hurt you at first are hurting you again?  They may not be present to you, but they are inside of you, disrupting you, angering you, causing you pain and causing you to give pain to others.”

“They have hurt me twice,” was his insight.  He got it.

“The key now is to deliberately commit to do no harm to those who have injured you. Another key now is to deliberately commit to do no harm to others.  Don’t let your pain become others’ pain.  When you do that, those who have hurt you win again.  Those who originally hurt you win twice.”

Jacqueline Song
Source: Jacqueline Song
I added: “When you forgive, you do not throw justice out the window.  When people hurt you, try to exercise both justice and forgiveness together.  And justice is very different from revenge.  When you seek revenge, you are letting the other win as you come to the attention of authorities, when you are punished…..again.”
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“They have hurt me enough.  They will not win again.”
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And with that he committed to working on his own anger…..so that “the bad guys” don’t have a chance to win a second time.  We shook hands.  We have a mutual respect for each other as persons.

Forgiveness Stops the Hurt So the “Bad Guys” Don’t Defeat You


How about you?  Have others hurt you?  Are you allowing them to win again?

Forgiving allows you to win for a change.

Posted Nov 11, 2017

 

Anger and Cancer: Is There a Relationship?

Anger is a negative emotion that can follow frustration, disappointment, and injustice. It can vary from mild and short-term to intense and long-term. It is the latter, the intense and long-term variety, that concerns us here, what we have called unhealthy anger (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).

To begin answering the question concerning the link between anger and cancer, let us start with a quotation that may be an overstatement and then let us get more precise. Groer, Davis, Droppleman, Mozingo, and Pierce (2000) made the following general statement: “Extremely low anger scores have been noted in numerous studies of patients with cancer. Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger. There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis.

Notice that their conclusion centers on a certain type of anger, that which is not overtly expressed but instead, to use a common expression, is bottled up.

Our next question, then, is to look for supporting evidence of this claim of suppressed anger relating to cancer, and we find it in. . . . .

Read the rest of this blog by Dr. Robert Enright in Psychology TodayFirst posted on Sept. 18, 2017.

Power: Five Non-Traditional Views

Within psychology, power is seen as having influence over others, whether of the benign kind (such as an authority directing others) or the coercive kind (manipulating and controlling others). Friedrich Nietzsche (1881/1997), the 19th-century German philosopher, talked about the “will to power,” suggesting that the quest for power is a major human motivation. In their now classic analysis of power, French and Raven (1959) identified legitimate power (the benign kind above), referent power (drawing others to the self for the self’s benefit), expert power (the ability of others to listen and follow), reward power (being able to reinforce others), and coercive power (already mentioned).

We propose five power-themes rarely discussed. We do so to challenge you: Do you use any of these aspects of power?

1. Power-Over vs. Power-For

Source: Jacqueline Song

In virtually all of the social science literature, you will see hidden assumption: All power is over others and for the self, even if it is benign and reward-producing. Yet, there is another form of power in need of exploration, what we call here power-for, meaning an altruistic form of power in which the power-wielder aids those in need, suffers for others, and builds others up. 

Read the rest of this blog by Dr. Robert Enright in Psychology Today. 
Posted Oct. 30, 2017

Does Forgiveness Victimize the Victim?

In the latest round of false criticism against the moral virtue of forgiveness, we find this: Forgiveness places an extra burden on victims because they already are burdened by injustice.  Now asking them to forgive or even assisting them in forgiveness adds a new challenge, a new burden and this is unfair.  Leave the victim alone, is the advice.

Let us examine this claim of a new unfair burden in forgiving.  Suppose that Person A deliberately hits Person B’s knee with a baseball bat, breaking the knee.  Person B has a burden: the broken knee and the resentment toward Person A.

If Person B now wishes to take seriously the responsibility for physical healing, should this person now go to the emergency room and endure the bright lights and the MRI and the surgery and the physical rehab?  Or, would this be too much of an added burden for Person B.  Perhaps it is unfair to encourage Person B to seek medical help……if we follow the logic of the forgiveness criticism.

Yet, this added burden of medical care, which can be a challenge, is hardly a burden relative to living with a broken knee that may not heal well with the resultant pain and limp that may last indefinitely.  The “burden” of healing is not nearly as troublesome as the burden of neglect of the injury.

Now let us turn back to the argument against forgiveness.  Let us even stay with the baseball bat incident.  Person B not only has a broken knee, but now also a broken heart from the shocking and unexpected incident.

Is it a burden to assist this person in healing the broken heart?  Should we just let the victim be?  Should we just let the victim live with the broken heart…..perhaps for the rest of the person’s life?

Do you see how this latest criticism against forgiveness is false?  Do you see how the major problem is the error in thinking by the critics and not in forgiveness itself?

When a person is morally injured, it seems to be charitable to offer healing.  Yes, healing can be challenging, but ignoring healing can be much worse.

Robert

A Thought Experiment for You: A World without Forgiveness or Mercy

It is the year 2525 and somehow the word “forgiveness” has been dropped from the vocabulary of every person on the planet.  The word “mercy” was dropped long before that.  Justice first, justice last, justice foremost is the unchallenged thought of all.  If justice gets a bit out of hand, that is just collateral damage to be corrected some time in the future so we can all move on with our business now.

If someone steals because he was hungry, then he knew the rules. Punish him.

If an adolescent is too depressed to study, then she knew the rules and so fail her.  Trying to understand her or to sympathize with her is to let her off too easily.  What if we let off others, too, who are anxious or abused or troubled?  There would be chaos.

Rules are rules and as we know rules prevent chaos and lead to an orderly society.  We want a clean, sanitized community and taking time to heal people’s emotional wounds can be so messy.  And besides, there is no rule in our rule book that says we are obligated to clean up the messiness of sadness or loneliness or alienation.  One person’s loneliness is another person’s blissful, refreshing solitude.

If you are kind to those who are not kind to you, then you are weak and are letting that person walk all over you.  Be strong.  Walk away.  You will never regret it.

Pass by that child on the street who just ran away from a father who abused her.  She might cry and disrupt those who are on their way to important meetings to make the world better.  She will get over it.

The crying infant can wait.  We have to teach it—it—to delay gratification.

You don’t agree with me?  I have a committee that does agree and you will    be hearing from    them in due course.    It will be better for you if you adjust to the right way of thinking so we just can all get along.

So, how are you liking the world without forgiveness and mercy so far?  What will you do to plant a bit more of forgiveness and mercy into the world…….today?

Robert

Do I Really Want to Forgive When Traumatized?

Why would anyone want to forgive when another has traumatized you?

I would like to suggest a different perspective on trauma and forgiveness. It is not forgiveness itself that is creating the sense of fear or disgust or danger or moral evil. Instead, it is the grave emotional wounds which are leading to these thoughts and feelings about forgiveness. When people are wounded they naturally tend to duck for cover. When someone comes along with an outstretched hand and says, “Please come out, into the sunshine, and experience the warmth of healing,” it can be too much. We then blame the one with the outstretched hand or the warmth of the sun or anything else “out there” for our discomfort when all the while the discomfort is what is residing inside the person, not “out there.” And this reaction is all perfectly understandable, given the trauma.

If you experience a blown out knee while working out, and it is gravely painful, is it not difficult to go to the physician? There you face all the sharp white-lights of the examining room, and the nurses scurrying about, and the statements about surgery and recovery and rehabilitation. It all seems to be too much. Yet, it is not the physician or the nurses or the thought of the scalpel or the rehab that is the ultimate cause of all the discomfort. That ultimate cause is the blown-out knee. Isn’t it the same with forgiveness? You have within you a deep wound, caused by others’ injustice, and now the challenge is to heal.

Forgiveness is one way to heal from the trauma which you did not deserve. Like the blown-out  knee, the trauma needs healing. So, I urge you to separate in your mind the wound from forgiveness itself. My first challenge to you, then, is this: Is it forgiveness itself that is the basic problem or is it the wound and then all the thoughts of what you will have to do to participate in the healing of that wound?

Forgiveness heals. Forgiveness does not further traumatize. To forgive is to know that you have been treated unjustly and despite the injustice, you make the decision to reduce your resentment toward the offending person and eventually work toward mercy for him or her. That mercy can take the form of kindness, respect, generosity, and even love. Do you want that in you life—kindness, respect, generosity, and love? Forgiveness can help strengthen these in your heart or even begin to have them grow all over again for you.

– Excerpt from the book, The Forgiving Life, Chapter 2.

Robert

 

 

What Is Meant by “Forgiveness and Justice Occur Together”?

In many of my writings, I make the point that when you forgive, you also should seek justice from the one who hurt you.  As an example, if someone continually verbally abuses you, it is good to ask that person to stop the abuse.

One person recently asked me if he now must—-must—-seek justice even if it is not expedient or helpful to do so.  As an example, suppose you have a boss who is annoying but not abusive.  Suppose further that your pointing out the annoyances will harm your position in the company.  Are you morally obligated to seek justice as you forgive?  No.  As with your choice to forgive or not, it is your choice whether or not to seek justice.

We need to keep a balance here.  There is no rule that says when you forgive you must not seek justice.  There is no rule that says when you forgive you must seek justice.

Instead, use your wisdom and sense of fairness as you ask yourself: Should I be seeking justice in this particular case?

If seeking justice is the reasonable option, it may be best first to forgive so that you do not approach with deep anger the person from whom you will be asking fairness.

Robert