What might be more fruitful: to forgive someone else or to forgive myself first?

Because we tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on other people, I usually recommend first trying to forgive other people.  Become familiar with this process: seeing the inherent worth in the other, softening your heart toward the other, bearing the pain so you do not hurt the other.  Once you have a sense of these aspects of forgiveness, then apply the same themes to yourself: know you have inherent worth, not because of what you did but in spite of this.  Soften your heart toward yourself, again not because of what you did, but in spite of this.  Commit to not harming yourself.  One aspect of self-forgiveness that differs from forgiving others is this:  In your self-forgiving, examine whether you might have hurt other people by your actions (that require self-forgiveness).  Go to those whom you have offended and ask for forgiveness.

Learn more at Self-Forgiveness and Learning to Forgive Others.

Quest for Justice Instead Leads to Forgiveness

WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL, USA  Twenty years ago this month, Bruce Murakami pulled up to a burning car on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa to offer any assistance he could. To his horror, Murakami soon discovered that his wife, Cindy, and their 11-year-old daughter Chelsea, were inside the burning minivan. They both died before he or anyone else was able to rescue them.
At first, Murakami wanted the man responsible for this wife and daughter’s deaths to pay. After all, the driver of the car that ran into his wife’s van, Justin Cabezas, was speeding at more than 90 mph at impact.
.

“I was angry, livid. . .” Murakami admitted. “I said to myself, ‘Let me find the punk, I’m gonna take care of him.’” 

Bruce Murakami, left, and Justin Cabezas encouraged morning commuters to slow down on Kamehameha Highway in Kane’ohe, Hawaii.

When Cabezas was not initially charged with causing the crash, Murakami’s life went into a tailspin of depression.

“I was a walking zombie. I sold my business, sat on the beach every day. I put my Bible down. I didn’t want anything to do with God. Nothing”

Three years later, Cabezas was finally charged with 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter. But something happened when Murakami finally saw Cabezas in court. He wasn’t the monster Murakami had envisioned. That’s when this father’s fight for justice turned into a father’s fight to forgive.

“I started preaching to myself on forgiveness. Even though I never met this kid, I started forgiving him for what he did,” Murakami says. “After we met, I knew he was suffering as much as I was.”

Cabezas was facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Murakami shocked the court, however, by asking the judge not to send Cabezas to jail.
.

“If he goes to prison for 30 years, everyone’s going to forget about him. Everyone’s going to forget about Cindy and Chelsea,” Murakami said to the judge. “What if he and I went out to schools and talked to young people?”

With the court’s consent, the two men went to hundreds of schools across the country, speaking to more than a half-million kids about the dangers of speeding. But Murakami also used those presentations to help kids understand that even after tragic mistakes, they too could find redemption like Cabezas.

“I didn’t want to waste his life. He came from a good family. We’ve all made mistakes,” Murakami added.

Murakami and Cabezas also founded a not-for-profit organization called Safe Teen Driver that includes a unique driver education program offered free to teens who learn by driving actual professional go-karts on a professional track while practicing skills that could save their lives. Parents are required to participate and learn the importance of their role in developing a safe teen driver.

Cabezas went on to become a successful real estate agent in Texas before dying of cancer last summer. Murakami went to the funeral and spoke from the pulpit about the importance of forgiveness.


Read the full story: Tampa man’s quest for justice instead becomes lesson in forgiveness

Watch a short video from WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL about Bruce Murakami’s life-changing decision to forgive.


 

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:

My son recently was divorced. He did the best that he could and now he is angry and refuses to forgive his ex-wife. Can I forgive her for what she did to my son? If I do this, am I being disloyal to my son, who refuses to forgive?

You are free to choose forgiveness in this case.  Even though your son’s ex-spouse did not hurt you directly, she did hurt you in a secondary sense in that she hurt your loved one.  Forgiving in this context is appropriate.  You are not being disloyal to your son if you choose to forgive to rid yourself of resentment.  You need not, then, go to your son and proclaim your forgiveness and then pressure him now to do the same.  You can forgive without discussing this with your son.  If and when he is ready to forgive, then you can share your insights about the forgiveness process with him.

Learn more at 8 Reasons to Forgive.

I have been divorced for 10 years. I can honestly say that I no longer have what you call “toxic anger” toward my ex-spouse. I never actually engaged in the forgiveness process. I kind of just let it go and the anger went away, too. Do you think I still need to consider forgiveness?

A researcher, Judith Wallerstein, did a longitudinal study of divorced people and she found that, even 10 years after divorce, many people still were fuming with anger.  This does not seem to be the case for you. If you carefully examine your level of anger, including the possibility that you are not denying the depth of your anger, then it is possible that you have, as you say, moved on without excessive anger.  If, on the other hand, the anger should again surface for you, then you do have the possibility of beginning the forgiveness process.  It never is too late to forgive if you think you need to do this.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.
Learn more about Wallerstein’s Research on Divorce.

Forgiveness Education: Example of the Second-Grade (Primary 4 in Belfast) Curriculum

A 17-lesson curriculum guide was written by a licensed psychologist and a developmental psychologist for the teachers’ use. Each lesson takes approximately 45 minutes or less and each occurs approximately once per week for the entire class.  Additional activities in the guide are provided if a teacher wishes to extend the learning.

In the early years of the program, the teachers were introduced to the ideas of forgiveness and the curricular materials in a workshop directed by the authors of the curriculum or others associated with the project.  We envision other methods as the work expands.  Audios of the workshop, for example, may become available for download.

Forgiveness is taught by the classroom teachers primarily through the medium of story.  Through stories such as Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, Cinderella, Dumbo, and Snow White, the children learn that conflicts arise and that we have a wide range of options to unfair treatment.

The curriculum guide is divided into three parts:

  • First, the teacher introduces certain concepts that underlie forgiveness (the inherent worth of all people, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love), without mentioning the word forgiveness.
  • In Part Two, the children hear stories in which the story characters display instances of inherent worth, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love (or their opposites of unkindness, disrespect, and stinginess), toward another story character who was unjust.
  • In Part Three, the teacher helps the children, if they choose, to apply the five principles toward a person who has hurt them.

Throughout the implementation of this program, teachers make the important distinction between learning about forgiveness and choosing to practice it in certain contexts.  The program is careful to emphasize the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation.  A child does not reconcile with someone who is potentially harmful, for example.  The teachers impress upon the children that the exercises in Part Three of forgiving are not mandatory, but completely optional.

The first-grade curriculum is similar to this one with the exception of the choice of stories.  In first grade, the centerpiece stories are from Dr. Seuss.

Robert


From Enright, R.D., Knutson, J, & Holter, A. (2006).Turning from hatred to community friendship: Forgiveness education in post-accord Belfast” – Presented at the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, November 7, 2006.

When I am hurt by others, I tend to quickly say to myself, “I forgive you.” Is this ok or do you think I actually am not forgiving?

Forgiving is a process that requires more than a statement such as “I forgive you.”  Your statement to yourself may be more of a promise to now work on the process, to commit to the struggles of seeing the inherent worth in the other person, to bear the pain of what happened, and to be good to the person (within reason; you need not reconcile if the other is harmful to you).  So, try to see the positives in your statement to yourself.  Try to see it as the beginning of the commitment now to follow through with the hard work of forgiving.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

%d bloggers like this: