What if there is no justice in place to protect you?  Perhaps, it is a problem with justice not forgiveness, but do you still recommend forgiveness even if justice is not available to protect you?  Why or why not? 

Are you asking this?—What if the boss is obnoxious and you want to leave?  The old job with this boss is bad for you and there is no better job on the horizon.  Might forgiving the boss keep you in an unhealthy job?  I do not think that forgiveness is a weakness here.  You can forgive and then perhaps, with reduced anger, ask for a more just situation with the boss.  In this case, forgiveness may help you to seek fairness where, right now, justice does not exist.  Your trying to **create** a just situation, after you forgive, may be your protection.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

Is there a difference between forgiving and wishing someone well?  I wish my ex-husband well, but I am still very angry with him because he broke the marriage covenant.

The late Lewis Smedes in his book, Forgive and Forget, made the point that people are starting to forgive when they wish the other person well.  Thus, you likely are at the beginning of forgiveness and this is a positive step.  Now you need to press onward toward deeper forgiveness.  Try to see your ex-husband’s worth; try to see his emotional wounds which might have contributed to the break-up; try to be aware of any compassion that may be growing in you as you do this work.  The result, based on our research, likely will be reduced anger.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

To me, proclaiming, “I forgive you,” is all about power—-power over the other by basically condemning the other.  After all, what you are doing in this proclamation of forgiving is to point out the other’s flaws.  What do you think?

If your philosophy is based on Machiavelli or post-modernism in which the assumption is that there are no universal truths,  then you will be viewing forgiveness through the lens of power. If  your philosophy is based on classical realism, such as Aristotle, then you will be viewing forgiveness through a moral virtue lens, with the assumption that genuine forgiving is morally good, done for others in a selfless way. The Machiavellian project, within the study of forgiveness, is dangerous because it could lead a person to falsely abandoning the quest for forgiving and shedding of hatred.  After all, if forgiving is abandoned, what is the alternative to expunging hatred?

My point is this: The philosophy with which you begin contemplation on what forgiveness is and its value for you and others has profound implications for how you view this important virtue.  So, as Socrates warned us, the unexamined life is not worth living.  We need to examine very carefully what are our initial assumptions about forgiveness, including being aware of what philosophical model we are bringing to bear on this reflection, prior to judging forgiving as good or bad.

For additional information, see All You Need is Love.

Can children forgive a parent while they are still young and living with the parent?

In my experience, because forgiveness is so little discussed with children, as least in any deep way, most children actually do not think about forgiveness and they do not know how to go about forgiving.  This is one reason why instituting forgiveness education is so vitally important.   Again in my experience, children who are treated unjustly in the home do not begin to reflect on this until they are in later adolescence and are in transition from the home.  It often is at this time that the nearly-adult children look back and can be filled with deep resentment in need of amelioration.  If these nearly-adult children already were fortified with what forgiveness is and how to go about it, this would serve them well.

For additional information, see Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.

They say, “Forgive and forget,” but I just can’t blot out of my memory what happened to me.  Does this mean that I am not forgiving the person?

The term forget has more than one meaning.  It can mean not being able to remember what happened.  It can mean to not dwell on what happened.  It can mean that as we look back, we remember in new ways.  When we forgive, we can remember and this is all right.  As an analogy, if you have ever had a sports injury, you can look back; you do not forget in a literal sense the time of a challenging physical injury.  Yet, when you look back at the sports injury, you do not feel the pain in the same way as you did when the event happened.  I think it is the same with forgiveness.  We can look back, but we remember in new ways, without the acute pain being there for us now.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

WORTH-LESS OR WORTH-MORE?

“As we continually live with love withdrawn from us and a resulting resentment (with the short-term consequences of thinking with a negative pattern, thinking specific condemning thoughts, and acting poorly), we can settle into a kind of long-term distortion of who the love-withdrawing person is, who we ourselves are, and who people are in general. The basic issue here is that once love is withdrawn from us, we can begin to withdraw a sense of worth toward the one who hurt us. The conclusion is that he or she is worth-less. Over time, we can drift into the dangerous conclusion, ‘I, too, am worthless. ’After all, others have withdrawn love from me and have concluded that I lack worth, therefore I do lack worth. Even later, we can drift into the unhealthy conclusion that there is no love in the world and so no one really has any worth, thus everyone is worth-less.”

Excerpt from the book, The Forgiving Life, Chapter 1.

Robert

Forgiving for me is a struggle, but I can accomplish it.  My issue is with reconciliation, which I am finding very awkward with one particular person.  Can reconciliation ever be truly accomplished after a brutal betrayal?

Congratulations on forgiving in the face of a “brutal betrayal.”  This is not at all easy to accomplish.  Regarding reconciliation, your struggle may be centered on the theme of trust. How trustworthy is the person whom you have forgiven?  If you are not able to establish trust, at least not yet, this may be the cause of your struggle.  Try to get a sense of whether or not the other is sorry for the injustice, uses words that suggest sincerity of repentance to you, and shows behavior that is consistent with the inner sorrow and words of repentance.

For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?

I don’t need to forgive.  I have put the person out of my life.  I have moved on.  That person can have a miserable life now as far as I am concerned.  In fact, this person would deserve misery.  I don’t really have a question, just this statement that one simply can move on without forgiving.

Thank you for your note.  While “moving on” certainly is possible when the injustice is not serious, I have found that people have a very hard time “just moving on” when deeply hurt by others.  In your case, may I challenge you a bit?  I do not think that you are “moving on” without resentment in your heart toward the person.  I say this because of your statement, “In fact, this person would deserve misery.”  This suggests to me that you still are angry.  This kind of anger can stay with a person for a very long time.  “Moving on” is not a cure for such anger.  Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a cure for it.  If and when you are ready to consider forgiveness in this case, your forgiving the person may help you reduce this feeling of resentment.

For additional information, see The Personal, Global, and Cosmic Perspectives.

With all of this talk about forgiveness, I think that forgiveness occurs mostly because of peer or family pressure.  It is not actually a choice, as you say.  How can I avoid this pressure?

The first step is to realize that others may be creating this expectation for you, as you are obviously aware. A second step is to realize that most people do not necessarily mean to put pressure on you to forgive. As a third step, if people do put pressure on you to forgive, please realize that they have your best interest at heart but may not be going about it in a way that is helpful for you. When pressured, please realize that to forgive can take time and you cannot always respond positively and quickly to those who have hurt you.

For additional information, see 8 Reasons to Forgive.

Don’t you think that forgiveness can be dangerous?  After all, it asks so much of the victims, who already are hurt by the unfairness experienced.  Why should victims now have to do all the 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 Forgiveness Defined.