I have a roommate who is very angry with his mother.  It seems to me that he has built up a story on his mother that is exaggerated, in other words, not entirely true.  What do you suggest I do to help him forgive?

First, it would be best to have him think as carefully and as rationally as possible to sort out what is true and what is false regarding the mother’s actions.  He needs to take a courageous view of the truth of the mother’s actual injustice.   Once this occurs, he should be able to see the exact injustices in which the mother engaged.  Your roommate then can pick out one incident and forgive his mother for that one.  Then he can move to another incident.  Little by little, he may forgive so that his resentment lessens and he can consider approaching his mother with a deeper sense of her inherent worth.

For additional information, see What Is Forgiveness?

Humility, Courage, and Forgiveness

Forgiveness is full of paradoxes.  Consider three examples of these paradoxes:

1) As one is kind to those who are not kind to the person, then the forgiver experiences emotional relief;

2) Rather than seeking justice as part of forgiveness, the person exercises the virtue of mercy and this can be part of the healing process between two people;

3) When emotionally hurting from the injustice the focus is not on the self, but on the other and this promotes healing in the forgiver.

Another paradox is that as forgiveness fosters humility, the lowliness of humility fosters the strength of courage.  As one forgives, one begins to practice humility which means lowering oneself from a potential power position to see the self and the other as at least somewhat similar in these: We are both imperfect; we both have hurt others; we are both human and therefore each of us possesses inherent worth.  The humility can help one stand firm in courage to persevere in the forgiveness process with all of its paradoxes.  After all, if the forgiver sees the inherent worth in both, then there is motivation to acknowledge this worth and see the process of forgiveness through to the end, which requires courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but moving forward even in fear.

Humility and courage each can be misunderstood.  There are two extremes to both humility and courage.  The first extreme for humility is to have a very lowly—too lowly—view of the self so that people think they deserve to be humiliated, even constantly humiliated.  The other extreme of humility is, in trying to see one’s own bounds or limitations, to distort these at too high a level.  The quest for humility, in this second case of extremes, leads to a distortion toward one’s own greatness, one’s own specialness above others.

The first extreme of courage is too much fear that leads to a lack of action.  The second extreme of courage is a reckless bravado, charging ahead without the ability to do so and therefore to endanger self and others.

Humility requires a middle-ground between self-deprecation and self-inflation to a more realistic view of one’s own (and others’) strengths and weaknesses.

Courage requires a middle-ground between being frozen in fear and being reckless.

As one forgives, the person needs to balance both humility and courage.  Genuine humility (without the extremes discussed above) helps the forgiver to see the shared humanity with the forgiven.  Genuine courage (without those extremes) helps the forgiver to persevere in the struggle to forgive and to bring justice as its own moral virtue into the process of reconciliation.

Humility, courage, and forgiveness are a team that, together, can lead to inner healing and the offer of reconciliation toward those who have behaved unjustly.

Robert

Are You Stuck and Can’t Get Unstuck? Try Practicing Courage!

“These five approaches to courage may help you to move forward.”

It is so easy to get stuck and so hard to get unstuck when life is a burden. When this happens, anxiety can rise along with discouragement and even anger with the self.  Some try relaxation or behavior modification. Others try the less productive route of diversion: games, entertainment, anything to distract and avoid the goal…and even distraction from thinking about the goal. Still others try the self-destructive route of self-medication or dropping out of life in the hope that the challenge ends. Yet, as life moves forward, so do new challenges. We need an effective response so that we can meet the next challenge, and the next, and the next.

To meet those challenges in a positive way, you might want to begin adding the practice of courage to the way you live. Courage is the thought that you will go ahead despite discomfort, the feeling that you can and will overcome, and the behavior that you are willing to fight for what is good. 

Here are five suggestions on using courage to get unstuck, not only in the current challenge, but in the rest of the challenges you will face in life.

First, stand up. Sitting, staying, satisfying, and safety are not your answer right now. Stand. Stand up to the pain of inactivity. Stand up to the anxiety. Stand up to the fear that you may not succeed. As you stand, feel the strength that you have as you bear the pain of the challenge. You are stronger than you realize.
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Second, stay standing. Don’t give in.  Persevere in the thought that you will go ahead despite the discomfort. Persevere in the feeling that you can and will overcome. Persevere in the behavior to fight for what you know is good for you.

Third, move forward. In the standing, you have shown yourself that you can take pain. Now show yourself that you can move forward with the pain and not give up. Be forward-looking. Be ready to act even in the pain. Make a small move today toward your overall goal. Do not necessarily expect to achieve everything related to the goal. The point today is to take a small step, to show yourself that you are forward-looking. Now. And tomorrow.

Fourth, do not accept unjust treatment against you. You sometimes have to clear a path when others are treating you unfairly if you are to achieve your goals. In your pain, as you stand, as you remain standing, please consider moving forward to undo others’ unjust treatment against you, but please do so with justice, with fairness. Courage and justice need to grow up together.

Fifth, do all of this with a forgiving heart. Forgiveness is being good, as best you can today, to those who are not good to you. Forgiveness reduces your anger, loosens those tight muscles, refreshes you, and gives you more energy and enthusiasm to stand, remain standing, move forward, and to right injustices with gentleness, respect, and even love.

Courage, justice, and forgiveness are three of the most important virtues that you can begin deliberately incorporating into your life now. They are a team to get you unstuck and to realize your important goals, and perhaps even to find joy. The alternative, being stuck, is not who you really are.  Move forward with courage and see what happens.

Posted in Psychology Today June 07, 2017