It seems to me that if we can apply moral virtues such as love toward ourselves, then we should be able to apply forgiveness toward ourselves. After all, to forgive on its highest level is to unconditionally love (in the sense of the Greek term, agape) those who have been unjust to us. To forgive the self is to unconditionally offer love to the self when one has broken one’s own standards. A significant difference between forgiving others and forgiving the self is this: When we forgive ourselves, we usually hurt other people by our actions; as we forgive ourselves, we should go to those whom we have hurt and seek forgiveness from them. I discuss the theme of self-forgiveness in the following essay on the Psychology Today website (click the link below):
The science of forgiveness suggests that the pain becomes considerably more bearable upon forgiving people for serious injustices. As the late Lewis Smedes used to say, forgiveness is for imperfect people. Thus, we do not necessarily get rid of all anger or all sadness upon forgiving. Yet, as I have heard from one person, “Anger used to control me, but now I am in control of my anger.” Forgiveness is what led to this triumph.
For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.
I think the appeal is the adrenaline rush, the feeling of being wide awake and in control, the feeling that others will not take advantage of me. All of this is reasonable if it is within reasonable bounds. By that I mean that the anger is not controlling you, which can happen as people fly out of control with a temper that then is hard to manage.
A habit of anger, when intense, is hard to break, but it can be done with a strong will, the practice of forgiveness, and an awareness of how the anger-habit has compromised one’s life. Passive anger can be habit-forming as well and that is a more difficult habit to break if the person is unaware of it. Insights of unhappiness or of reduced energy can be clues to people that they are harboring passive anger in need of healing.
Forgiving others for injustices that have fostered this kind of anger is an important step in curing the anger.
Learn more at What is Forgiveness?
In an August 13, 2019 essay at mercatornet.com, author Izzy Kalman states that the anti-bullying movement is doomed to failure. This is the case because, in his words: “The goal of the anti-bullying movement is to convince us all to stop bullying or tolerating bullying. Unfortunately, the message falls on deaf ears because hardly anyone believes that they are bullies.”
In other words, those who bully are in denial and so attempts to convince them to change are futile. We are more hopeful of successful attempts at reducing bullying because of our approach, which, as far as we can tell, is unique.
Sometimes some students are so emotionally wounded that their anger overwhelms the attempt at consciousness-raising. The students are so very wounded that they cannot listen well. Some are so wounded that they refuse to listen. Even others are so mortally wounded that they find a certain pleasure in inflicting pain on others. It is when it gets to that point—others’ pain equals pleasure for the one inflicting it—that we have a stubborn problem on our hands. No signs, no consciousness-raising, no rally in the gym, no pressure to be good is going to work…..because the gravely wounded student is now beyond listening.
Yet, we have found a hidden way to reverse the trend in those who are so hurting that they derive pain from hurting others. It is this: Ask the hurting students, those labeled so often as bullies, to tell their story of pain, their story of how others have abused them.
You will see this as the rule rather than the exception:
Those who inflict pain over and over have stories of abuse toward them that would make you weep. In fact, we have seen the weeping come from the one who has bullied others, the one who has inflicted serious pain onto others. He wept because, as he put it, “No one ever asked me for my story before.” His story was one of cruel child abuse from an alcoholic father who bruised him until he bled. And no one ever asked him about this. And so he struck out at others. Once he told his story, he began to forgive his father and his pain lessened and thus his need to inflict pain on others slowly melted away.
This is what our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program does. It aids counselors and teachers in bringing out the stories in the pain-inflictors so that their own pain dramatically decreases. As this happens, through forgiveness, bullying behavior is rendered powerless……because in examining their own hurt they finally realize how much hurt they have inflicted…..and with their own emotional pain gone, they have no desire to live life like this any more.
Come, take our anti-bullying curriculum and save the life of at least one child and help prevent inflicted pain on countless others.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For a limited time only, the International Forgiveness Institute is offering Dr. Enright’s Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program as a free gift to counselors, schools, and families. Click here to order.
Yes, it is all right to start and stop the forgiveness process if you feel that you need a rest from the challenges of forgiving. As an analogy, if we want to be physically ﬁt, we do not work at that ﬁtness 10 hours a day every day. We need to be more temperate than that. So, working on forgiveness for an hour or less some of the days of a week seems reasonable to me. Taking a week off is ﬁne. I was asked by a person if she could take a year off of the forgiveness process. This, to me, would be similar to taking off a year of physical ﬁtness training. One likely would get out of shape waiting that long. One probably would get out of forgiveness-ﬁtness shape as well waiting for a year.
For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.
The keys to distinguishing healthy and unhealthy anger are these:
1. Are you in control of that anger or is it controlling you (with a strong temper, for example, or making you and others miserable)? If you are in control, this is good.
2. Has the anger continued for weeks or longer? If so, it likely is unhealthy anger.
3. Are others giving you feedback that your anger is inappropriate? If this message comes from a reliable source, then it may be time to reﬂect on that anger possibly being unhealthy.
Learn more at What is Forgiveness?