Forgiveness seems like such a “soft” idea. I need to be strong if I am to solve unjust problems.

When you forgive, you make a commitment to do no harm to the one who hurt you. Is this a “soft” response? When you forgive, you make a commitment to bear the pain that happened to you so that you do not pass the pain to others, including, for example, other family members who were not the ones who hurt you. Is this a “soft” response? When you struggle to love those who have withdrawn love from you, this seems to me to be a heroic response, not a “soft” one.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

How can families persevere in practicing forgiveness? My worry within my own family is that as I introduce the idea of forgiveness, people may get initially excited and then it just fades away.

Perseverance in the practice of forgiveness takes a strong will.  Do you have that strong will to quietly and gently and without force keep the message alive that you value forgiveness and would like it to be a part of your family?  As an analogy, starting a fitness program is good, but continuing with it is even better.  How do people continue?  They establish routines; they enjoy the kind of exercise that they do; they create an expectation for themselves to continue.  The same can occur with becoming forgivingly fit.

For additional information, see:  Learning to Forgive Others.

My cousin says that she forgives me for something I did about a year ago, but when I am around her she seems like she has an attitude toward me now. I think she has not forgiven me. Should I bring this up to her or just let it go?

It seems that you already have been patient, waiting for her to reduce the resentment, but it is not happening. It is time to first forgive her for her unforgiveness and then gently approach her about it. It seems that she still has work to do to completely forgive you. You might want to ask her to forgive you and then wait patiently for her to accomplish the task.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

Please convince me that forgiveness is not some kind of a cop-out. As I see it, when people forgive they are avoiding conflict. It seems to involve a lack of courage.

Forgiveness is a response to injustice and as such it never ignores justice. Instead, it is a response of mercy in the face of such injustice. To give mercy as a conscious choice when experiencing another person’s injustice is a heroic act of virtue, hardly a lack of courage. 

When people practice forgiveness, they do not ignore justice, but instead give mercy and strive for justice at the same time. The justice sought is likely to be good because it is not mingled with resentment. Thus, forgiveness hardly is a cop-out. Did I convince you?

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

Do you think it is harder to forgive a person for one really bad offense or to forgive someone who constantly is doing small things to demean and does so almost every day?

The answer will vary by person and by how gravely serious the one offense is. Many people tell me that they struggle with forgiving those who hurt them on a regular basis. There are two reasons for this: 1) the 20th offense is harder than the first because there is a cumulative effect. The resentments get stronger as the problems persist; and 2) the person sometimes feels trapped, as if the problem will never end. This is why it is so important not only to forgive but also to seek fairness from the other. Living in harmony can occur when the one with a consistent pattern of unfairness comes to see this as unfair and is willing to change. Forgiving and correcting work well together as a team.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

I just do not have the confidence to forgive one of my parents from issues of long ago. I keep telling myself that I will not be able to get it done. What can you suggest to me that might boost my confidence?

First, I suggest that you look back on your life to concrete examples of your forgiving others. Have you had at least one successful attempt in your past? If so, you have shown yourself that you can forgive.

Even if you have never forgiven someone, you can start now with someone who is easier to forgive than your father. Try to recall someone who has hurt you in the past, but who has not hurt you severely. Start the forgiveness process with him or her and keep at it until you have forgiven. Once you succeed with this person, then try another, again who has not hurt you gravely

Once you have successfully practiced forgiveness on these two people, keep in mind the path that you walked and now apply it to your father. The practice may give you the confidence you need.

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

 

Forgiveness asks too much of victims. Why should victims now have to do all this work?

If someone breaks your leg, is it inappropriate for you, the victim, to go to the emergency room, endure surgery, and struggle with the physical rehab? It is the same with forgiving. If someone breaks your heart it is reasonable to do the emotional heart surgery that is forgiving.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.