The Mathematics of Forgiveness

When we are treated deeply unjustly by others, we have a tendency to be wounded in at least eight ways. First is the injustice itself. Second is theforgive emotional reaction, such as considerable anger or frustration or sadness. Third, we sometimes feel shame because others are looking and wondering. Fourth, all of the above can make us tired. Fifth, we sometimes can’t stop thinking about what happened. Sixth, as we compare ourselves to the one who hurt us, we see ourselves as coming up short. Seventh, we sometimes have to make unwanted changes in our lives. And eighth, we drift into pessimism.

One injustice, eight wounds. Now, suppose one person hurt you deeply 20 times. That is 20 X 8 = 160 wounds you are carrying around inside of you.

Suppose further that 5 other people have hurt you 10 times each……just wait a minute., please….doing the math here……That is 400 more wounds. Adding the first person who hurt you to the other five who hurt you and look. You are carrying around at least 560 wounds inside of you.

Formula Mathematics Equation Mathematical Symbol Geometry Information Concept

Injustice has a way of making us round-shouldered if you think about it. But be of good cheer. Forgiveness properly practiced can eliminate most of these wounds, allowing you to stand up straight perhaps for the first time in years.

Do the math…..then please consider forgiving.

Robert

I am trying to forgive my mother for some things that happened years ago. I am not feeling very angry now and so I am wondering: Am I over this or might I be repressing my anger? How can a person tell if they are repressing anger?

One test of repressed anger is this: As you think of giving the gift of kindness and compassion to your mother, do you feel free inside to give these gifts to her?  If the answer is yes, then you may be over the hurt (whether by forgiveness or some other means).  If you are hesitant to give these gifts to your mother, then you likely do have repressed anger. Starting a forgiveness process and being patient with this may reduce the anger.

A Specific Forgiveness Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. CoupleLet the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally, are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing from the past to your relationship.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in theThe Forgiving Life-Cover virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.

Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert

Forgiveness and Helplessness

Psychologists tell us that the thoughts and feelings of helplessness can devastate a person. When we think we are trapped with no way out, then we start to feel hopeless, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

helpless6The thought that there is no way out is the big lie.

Yes, you may not be able to do much about the current behavioral situation.

The actions in which you engage may be limited.  This does not at all mean that your inner world is trapped with no way out.  You can overcome the inner sense of helplessness by forgiving those who have contributed to your limited actions.

You are free inside to forgive, to reduce resentment, and even to cure this disease of resentment, which can be much worse than reduced behavioral options.

You are much freer than you think. helpless5When all around you are mean and unrealistic and hurtful, your inner world can be filled with a forgiveness that gives you joy and confidence and hope.

Am I being unrealistic?  Put me to the test.  Try to forgive and see how your inner world transforms.

And then never be trapped in that inner world ever again.

Robert

On Bearing the Pain

One of the paradoxes of forgiveness is that as we give mercy to those who showed no mercy to us, we are doing moral good. Another paradox is this: As we bear the pain of the injustice, that pain does not crush us but instead strengthens us and helps us to heal emotionally.

When we bear the pain of what happened to us, we are not absorbing depression or anger or anxiety. Instead we realize that we have been Pill of Heartstreated unfairly—-it did happen. We do not run from that and we do not try to hurriedly cast off the emotional pain that is now ours. We quietly live with that pain so that we do not toss it back to the one who hurt us (because we are having mercy on that person). We live with that pain so that we do not displace the anger onto others who were not even part of the injustice (our children or co-workers, for example).

When we bear the pain we begin to see that we are strong, stronger actually than the offense and original pain. We can stand with the pain and in so doing become conduits of good for others.

Today, let us acknowledge our pain and practice a paradox: Let us quietly bear that pain and then watch it lift.

Robert

New Manual for School Counselors — An Introduction to Forgiveness for Adolescents

A new forgiveness intervention manual for at-risk middle school and high school students is now available from the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI)—at no cost.

Forgiveness Over Revenge: Grief, Insight and Virtue through Education (F.O.R.G.I.V.E.) is a training manual intended to serve as an introduction to the topic of forgiveness, both for school counselorsAsk 4 and adolescents. The manual is not meant to serve as a diagnostic or therapeutic tool. Instead, it may be used to introduce the topic of forgiveness and to provide hands-on experience practicing forgiveness-related thought processes and exercises.

Counselors who opt to use the F.O.R.G.I.V.E. manual are provided with ten lessons, each approximately one hour in length. In the first five, students learn the basics of forgiveness, both what it is and what it is not. The remaining five lessons focus on applying the process of forgiveness through targeted activities in a group setting. Instructors may use their observations over the course of the ten sessions to better understand youths’ relationship to forgiveness and to make possible referrals for more directed forgiveness therapy when
appropriate.

The new manual was developed, designed and written by Dayana Kupisk, a current graduate student at the University of Wisconsin – Dayana Kupisk PhotoMadison, who spent a semester studying forgiveness under the direction of Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI. She additionally has experience facilitating life skills and employment training to groups of at-risk youth, which greatly informed her approach for translating research-based information on forgiveness into creative activities that may be done with groups of youth.

This manual is intended for professional counselors with training to do group counseling with middle school and high school students,” according to Kupisk. “Since it contains therapeutic content, in which students focus on forgiving people who have hurt them, it is not for general classroom use, either by teachers or by counselors. Instead, this manual is intended for short-term group counseling with students who have been referred for treatment within the school setting.” 

Kupisk said she wants the F.O.R.G.I.V.E. manual distributed to as many potential users as possible. To accomplish that, she decided to allow the IFI to add the manual to its growing compilation of forgiveness intervention manuals and curriculum guides and to offer it at no cost. The manual can be ordered through the IFI website Store.

The International Forgiveness Institute, based in Madison, WI, is the only worldwide organization that focuses exclusively on forgiveness education for students from pre-kindergarten through high school. The Institute’s school forgiveness programs are operating in the U.S. and 30 other countries.

Does an act of forgiving lead almost automatically to feelings of positivity or does it only open the door to the potential for feeling more positively? Can one still feel positively without forgiving?

Although some people can begin to feel quite good upon starting to forgive another, these positive feelings can take time because the process of forgiving itself can take time. So, it is typical that a decision to forgive can and does open the door to feeling well, but we then need patience to keep on the path of forgiveness. As we do that, anger begins to diminish and feelings of well-being begin to emerge. Even if the anger does not go away entirely, many people then say that their anger no longer controls them.

Can people feel well if they do not forgive? This depends on the severity of the offense. If the offense is profound and shocking, then a person may not feel well in a general and on-going sense without forgiveness. I do not say that to put pressure on anyone to forgive. I say it, instead, because this is what I observe in those with extremely challenging injustices against them.