Does the process of forgiving myself differ at all from the process of forgiving someone else?

You can follow the same Process Model when forgiving yourself.  Most of the time, when we offend ourselves, we also have offended others.  If this is the case for you, then as you forgive yourself, consider seeking forgiveness from those whom you have hurt by your actions.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

I am forgiving my boss for harsh language about a month ago.  Now this week he is dumping all kinds of work on me with unrealistic deadlines.  Can I forgive him for both of these issues at the same time or is it better to take one at a time?

If the boss has a pattern of unjust behaviors, then you can forgive for the pattern itself rather than take each incident one at a time. If there are only two incidents as you describe, I would recommend forgiving the boss two times, for each discrete incident.  It will be less complicated if you separate the two.  Yet, if these two are part of a pattern, it may be better to forgive for the pattern so you do not have to forgive the boss 10 or 20 or 50 times.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

Is it less meritorious to say to oneself about the other person, “I forgive you,” than to say this directly to the offending person?

The answer depends on how the other will respond.  If that person is not ready to hear those words or to seek forgiveness, then rejection of your overture can happen.  If the other sees no wrong in the actions, then rejection of your overture again can happen. In other words, it depends on the circumstances between the two of you.  You certainly can say within yourself to the other, “I forgive you, “ and this is reasonable if proclaiming those words to the other will create more tension between the two of you.

For additional information, see 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

Criticisms of Forgiveness — 5th in a series: “Women Are Controlled by Men in Forgiving”

“The self-help books target women; research sometimes targets women. Forgiveness is asking women to tolerate men’s injustice; men would not be asked to do this toward women. Therefore, forgiving is playing out the power differential in the new societal struggle (which, to Marx, belonged once to ownership and labor in industry), which is the battle of the sexes.” Lamb (2002) made this point.

The argument is helpful if clinicians and researchers focus attention on only men or only women. In actuality, however, the pioneering research and interventions have been concerned about both. For example, Al-Mabuk, Enright, and Cardis (1995) educated both college men and women in forgiving deep hurts. The first empirical study on person-to-person forgiving published in psychology included both men and women (Enright, Santos, & Al-Mabuk, 1989).

Although it is true that some self-help books are geared toward women only, most talk to both genders (see, e.g., Smedes, 1984, 1996). Our studies on participants with postabortion emotional effects (Coyle & Enright, 1997) and on those with coronary artery disease were exclusively with men. Our studies of participants in drug rehabilitation (Lin, Mack, Enright, Krahn, & Baskin, 2004) and of adult children of alcoholics (Osterndorf, Enright, Holter, & Klatt, 2011) include both men and women.

One cannot help but see a particular assumption in the argument that targeting women for forgiveness is a gender bias. The argument seems to imply that forgiving is a way for the offender to keep a sinister control over the forgiver. If forgiving led automatically to reconciliation, then the argument would have weight. We already saw, however, that forgiving an offense and reconciling with an offender are two separate issues. The argument has a false first premise, that forgiveness and reconciliation are synonymous.

If, on the other hand, forgiving is a choice freely made and, once made, releases one from a host of psychological problems, then a predominant focus on women would actually be a bias against men. In actuality, however, forgiveness therapy and research target both genders. 

Robert

Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5182-5198). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

When I forgive, I want to confront the person who hurt me. If I do not confront, then I feel as if my forgiving is incomplete. Just having positive thoughts and feelings and even behaviors is not enough. The other has to change for me to forgive. Do you agree?

I agree that it is important for the other to change if the goal is a genuine, trusting reconciliation. I disagree if the initial goal is to exercise the moral virtue of forgiveness.  Your statement suggests to me that you want justice and that is a good thing.  Yet, justice and forgiveness are not the same thing.  Try to realize that confrontation is a form of justice-seeking.  I recommend forgiving before the justice-seeking so that the confrontation is not harsh.  Exercising justice after forgiveness can result in a better justice-seeking and a better justice outcome.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

I forgave someone a year ago, but I still have these random moments in which I feel some anger.  What is my next step here?

When we forgive, the anger does not necessarily go away completely.  This does not necessarily imply that you have not forgiven.  Are you in control of that anger or is the anger controlling you?  You say the anger comes “randomly.”  How often does this happen?  If it occurs infrequently, say once a month, then I think you have forgiven and are experiencing the natural and imperfect parts of being hurt and forgiving.  If the anger is more intense and comes more frequently, say once a week, then I recommend going back through the forgiveness process with this person.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

Forgive — for Your Own Mental Health

Mad In America Foundation, Cambridge, MA – The more forgiving people are, the fewer symptoms of mental disorders they experience, according to a study published in the Journal of Health PsychologyThe researchers suggested that teaching forgiveness, particularly at an early stage in one’s life, may be a valuable mental health early intervention strategy. 

A team of four psychologists led by noted forgiveness researcher Loren Toussaint recruited 148 young adults from a Midwest liberal arts college for the 2014 study.  The team’s analysis essentially confirmed the rationale and methodology being used by Dr. Robert Enright for the past 17 years to teach his Forgiveness Education Programs to children in countries around the world.

The researchers wrote that their findings “show for the first time that forgivingness is a strong, independent predictor of mental and physical health…” Specifically, regardless of the types and levels of stresses the participants reported, the researchers found greater forgiving tendencies linked to fewer negative mental health symptoms. “Forgivingness” is a general tendency to forgive; it does not assess the degree of actual forgiving toward people who acted unjustly. . .

“[W]e found that lifetime stress severity was unrelated to mental health for persons who were highest in forgivingness and most strongly related to poorer mental health for participants exhibiting the lowest levels of forgivingness,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers did not study how or why this correlation may exist, but hypothesized that “forgiving individuals may have a more adaptive or extensive repertoire of coping strategies and that forgivingness may facilitate healthier behaviors in the aftermath of major life stress.”

“To the extent that forgiveness training can promote a more forgiving coping style, then these interventions may help reduce stress-related disease and improve human health. Such interventions may be particularly beneficial when delivered as a prevention strategy in early life, before  individuals are exposed to major adulthood life  stressors,” the researchers concluded.

Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland, learn about forgiveness principles.

Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, began teaching Forgiveness Education 17-years ago in six grade-school classrooms in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While that program is still operating in Belfast, the Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides developed by Dr. Enright and his associates for students in Pre-School through 12th Grade, are now in use in more than 30 countries around the world including Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria (West Africa), Kenya and Rwanda (Africa), Colombia and Brazil (South America), Israel, Palestine, and Iran (Middle East), China and the Philippines (Asia), Greece and the Czech Republic (Europe), as well as Canada, Mexico and the US. 


Learn more about the study: Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health (Toussaint, Loren et al. Journal of Health Psychology. Published online before print August 19, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1359105314544132).

The Mad in America Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose “mission is to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States (and abroad). We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society, and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change.”


Resources on the International Forgiveness Institute website: