You say that part of forgiveness is to offer compassion toward the one who offended you. The one who hurt me has passed away. How can I begin to have compassion on this person?

Compassion includes at least four elements:

1) Sympathy toward the one who hurt you.  Sympathy is an emotional reaction to another’s pain.  For example, if someone comes to you angry that he just lost his job and now is struggling financially, you have sympathy when you feel sorry for the person.  His anger and unfortunate situation leads to a different emotion in you: sadness.

2) Empathy toward the one who hurt you.  Empathy is stepping inside the other’s shoes (so to speak) and feeling the same feeling as the other.  Thus, when the other is angry, you empathize with that person when you also feel anger.

3) Behaving toward the other by supporting him or her in the time of distress.  This could include a kind word or talking about the strategy of solving the job problem, as examples.

4) Suffering along with the person.  This latter point is the deepest aspect of compassion.  It could involve helping the person financially before a new job is secured;  it could involve driving the person to a job interview.

In the case of having compassion for a deceased person, you can have sympathy and empathy (the first two elements of compassion), but you cannot engage in the other two elements because behavior with and toward the other is not possible.  Compassion need not have all four elements to count as compassion.  You can think of the hard times endured by the deceased person and react with sympathy and empathy.  Such compassion may aid your forgiveness.

Learn more by reading any of these books by Dr. Forgiveness -Dr. Robert Enright: