What do you think the most common misconception about forgiving is?

I would say the most common misconception is the fear that once people forgive, they think they have to automatically reconcile, ignoring justice or the protection of the self.  This needs to be clarified for many people to begin trusting in the process of forgiving.

For additional information, see What Is Forgiveness?

What are the different meanings to the word “forget” when we say, “Forgive and forget”?

I think people usually mean this: Do not let the previous injustice get in the way of your relationship now.  It does not means this: Do not remember the other person’s weaknesses so that you are vulnerable to continued injustices.  In other words, “forget” means this: Remember in new ways, without deep anger, and watch your back.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

What is a healthy way of expressing anger?

A good way to start is by asking this question to yourself: “How will my specific way of expressing anger affect the other person(s) who are present when I express it?”  In other words, your expression has an effect not only on you but on others.  If you keep this in mind, your expression of that anger may be more temperate and thus not emotionally injure those who are present.

For additional information, see What Is Forgiveness?

Syrian children have watched their parents die or have assisted in carrying out their parents’ bodies.  What would you advise for these children?

We first have to realize that forgiveness belongs to those who rationally conclude that they have been wronged.  Even if others say, “You have no right to forgive because there is no injustice here,” this does not mean that the children now are frozen in their decisions to forgive.  Some, perhaps the majority, of children who have such a traumatic experience, may develop severe resentment.  This resentment could destroy their lives in the future, even in the distant future because the damaging effects of resentment may not be manifested for years.  So, if there is the poison of resentment and if the children, as they grow up, decide to forgive, they should do so.  A question is whether they are able to identify specific people to forgive or whether they will end up forgiving a system and which system that will be.

For additional information, see Healing Hearts, Building Peace.

Is it ok to engage in escapism rather than the hard road of forgiveness when I have emotional pain because of another’s unfairness?

Temporary escapism is reasonable.  It is similar to the psychological defense of denial.  Psychological defenses in the short-run are good because they keep us from severe anger or anxiety.  In the long-run, if all we do is use denial or escapism, then this is not allowing us to deal with the heart of the problem, which is to heal from what happened.  As an analogy, if you have torn muscle tissue in your knee, and this requires surgery, you are not healing the knee by denying the extent of your injury.  To forgive is to face the reality of deeply unfair treatment, the dangers of resentment, and your need of healing.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

How can I say, “I forgive you” to a system that has oppressed my people for a long time.  I am a “person of color” and it is my understanding that to forgive involves a concrete, flesh-and-blood other person.  This is not the case with a system.

You are correct that you are unable to say directly to a system, “I forgive you.”  It sometimes is the same with concrete, “flesh and blood” other people.  For example, you can forgive from your heart without words to a person who abandons you, whom you now cannot see.  When you forgive a system it can be from the heart and from the actions you take toward that system.  After all, systems are made up of people and people create norms that can be hurtful to some groups in that system.  So, you are able to forgive the system if this is your choice.  It is more abstract than forgiving one concrete, “flesh and blood” other person, but you can extend kindness and generosity to  the unseen others who established and continue with unfair norms.  Of course, this does not mean that you give up the quest for justice.  Forgiveness and justice exist side by side.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

I am a victim of incest. My father has died and I refuse to go to his graveside.  Does this mean I am not forgiving him?

Your not going to your father’s graveside does not necessarily indicate that you have not forgiven.  Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you are finished with all negative emotions.  Classical conditioning may be happening here in that you associate the grave with the incest and it makes you uncomfortable or anxious.  Staying away under this condition is understandable.  If you are doing no harm to your father in that you are not talking negatively about him to family members or others, you may be on the path to forgiving.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.