Criticisms of Forgiveness —— 2nd in a series:   “The Forgiver and Forgiven as Inferior”

The Forgiver as Inferior

When someone forgives so rapidly that he or she glosses over a legitimate period of anger, that person is not showing self-respect, as Jeffrie G. Murphy,  (1982, 2005) reminded us. Murphy’s concern, however, was not with forgiving per se but instead with the short-circuiting of the process. As long as the process of forgiving makes room for this legitimate period of anger, Murphy and those who agree with him should not be troubled by forgiveness.

The Forgiven as Inferior

Even if a forgiver does not try to dominate the offender, the latter may nonetheless feel very badly about having to be forgiven (see Droll, 1985; O’Shaughnessy, 1967). Derek may feel that Alice (his wife with whom he is having conflict), by her forgiving, is morally superior to him. Yet, Alice need not tell Derek of her gift. Even if he should suspect forgiveness on her part and then pine over this, Alice has done nothing wrong. Her gift remains a gift regardless of Derek’s response. If a child wails in protest over the gift of socks on Christmas morning, does this present then not count as a gift just because the child wanted a popular computer game and did not receive it?

Robert


Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5076-5085). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

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.

The Eight Principles Underlying Forgiveness Education

We considered eight principles when devising forgiveness education:

  1. The learning should take place in a non-stressful environment, such as a family setting or a classroom.
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  2. What is discussed initially does not center personally on the child but instead on story characters. The child sees first that story characters have conflicts. Next, the child sees that there are many ways to solve and deal with conflicts and that forgiveness is one of those ways. Next, the child sees that forgiveness does not directly solve a situation of injustice. Instead, forgiveness is one way of dealing with the consequences of injustice.
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  3. Once a child understands what forgiveness is and what it is not and understands the nature of interpersonal conflict (when one person acts badly, others can be hurt), he or she is ready to explore the pathway of forgiveness, the “how to” of forgiveness. This, again, is best taught by having the child first see others (story characters) go through forgiveness as a way to model it.
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  4. Then it is time for a child to start trying to forgive someone for a real offense against the child. This is best accomplished initially by choosing a small offense (e.g., being pushed on the playground) and only later building up to more serious injustices.
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  5. As children learn about forgiveness, the instruction should be developmental.
    Forgiveness students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    By this we mean that at first the child can see a story character forgiving one other story character for one offense. Then the child should begin to reason that if a story character can forgive one person for one offense, maybe that story character can forgive that same other person again and again, learning to generalize forgiveness across situations.
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  6. Next in the developmental sequence, the child learns that the generalization can occur across divergent other people so that he or she can forgive a variety of people for a variety of offenses.
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  7. Then in adolescence comes the more mature idea that “I can be a
    Students at Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, Galilee (Israel) learn about forgiveness.

    forgiving person.” In other words, forgiveness is not just something that one does in a behavioral sense, but instead forgiveness can go beyond actions to an internalized response that is part of the self, part of one’s identity as a person. It is here that the desire to forgive becomes more stable and enthusiasm for this moral virtue begins to develop. It is what Aristotle called “the love of the virtues.”
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  8. Finally, the developmental pathway leads to a motivation of giving forgiveness away to other people in the community. The adolescent, as part of a class assignment, might, for example, consider talking with counselors or families to introduce them to what forgiveness is, how people forgive, and the benefits for self and others when forgiveness is properly understood and practiced.

Robert


Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 4377-4399). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

I have reconciled with my partner and I think I have forgiven him. Yet, at times, I think about his original unfaithfulness and it makes me angry all over again. Am I only fooling myself in thinking that I truly have forgiven?

The late Lewis Smedes wrote that forgiveness is an imperfect process for imperfect people.  Feeling anger again does not necessarily mean that you have not forgiven.  People can forgive and still have anger that rises and falls depending on the situation.  If you are in control of the anger and are willing to forgive now on a deeper level, then you have forgiven.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

How can you create a forgiving community for oppressed people? Don’t you first have to validate the injustices by solving them? Forgiveness without such validity seems weak.

One can validate oppression by acknowledging it and calling it what it is: unfair.  One can own one’s legitimate anger over the oppression.  Yet, if one waits to actually solve the injustice before forgiving, then those who are oppressing win twice: once with original and ongoing oppression and second by having the oppressed people living under a constant state of unhealthy anger or resentment. That resentment, over time, might be so strong as to destroy individuals and families within that oppressed community.  Forgiveness without a correction of the injustice at the very least solves that one problem of destructive resentment.

Learn more at Healing Hearts, Building Peace.

5 Advantages of Online Therapy

Through the scientific efforts of psychology researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, Forgiveness Therapy has become an accepted standard of practice for clinical psychologists and for counseling members of organizations like the American Psychological Association.

For many people, self-help books like Forgiveness Is a Choice and 8 Keys to Forgiveness (both written by Dr. Enright) provide an easy-to-use step-by-step process for forgiving another person.  For others, working closely with a therapist is an important part of the journey to forgiveness.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a therapist frequently enough to make real progress in a reasonable amount of time. In a variety of situations, it can be beneficial to work with an online therapist. The advantages to online therapy, such as that offered by websites like BetterHelp, include:

Accessibility

While therapists are easily found in most metropolitan cities, suburbs and rural areas may not have very many options when it comes to a therapist. Psychologists are not prevalent in all areas of the country. If you don’t have very many mental health providers in your area, online therapy can give you access to a therapist where normally you might not have such access.

Convenience

Many therapists that you see in person have regular business hours and do not have weekend appointments. For those who work full time it can be very difficult to find a therapist willing to work with your schedule. Online therapy is convenient because you can use it when you have time, regardless of your work schedule or family life.

Affordability

Online therapy is often more affordable than in person therapists and psychologists. According to LearnVest.com, the average cost of therapy is $75 to $150 per session, with some psychologists charging as much as $300 per session. Online therapy is typically more affordable, with costs per session ranging about twice what the average person makes per hour.

Larger Selection of Therapists

Not every therapist is well versed in every issue. Not every therapist specializes in helping people with Forgiveness Therapy. Finding a therapist who is an expert in forgiveness and who can easily work with your particular situation can be challenging. It can take several tries to find a therapist that can really understand and help you. With online therapy, you have the ability to talk to many therapists until you find the one that is just right for you.

Feeling of Anonymity and Lower Anxiety

There is a certain feeling of anonymity that people have when dealing with others on the Internet or over the phone. It can be a lot easier to talk about difficult subjects when you don’t have to look at the person you are speaking with. This remoteness can help you face difficult topics more objectively.

Another advantage of the anonymity factor is that many people experience less anxiety about therapy when they do it online. With online therapy you are in the comfort of your own home. You can be much more relaxed. Those with social anxiety or anxiety about talking to strangers are much more comfortable using online therapy chat sessions.

Overall, online therapy can be a great solution for many people who are working on forgiveness issues. Forgiveness is divine, but it is not always easy. If you need help finding forgiveness within yourself for yourself or others, you may want to consider giving online therapy a try.

» by Marie Miguel


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource called BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.