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

Love and Forgiveness Prevail in the Face of Hatred

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C. – More than 30 witnesses, all relatives of the nine people Dylann Roof shot down in the Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study in June 2015, registered to speak during the sentencing portion of his trial. Before the Judge ultimately sentenced Roof to death, the witnesses spoke  directly to the self-avowed white supremacist for the first time.

Alana Simmons, granddaughter of shooting victim Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., reminded Roof of her message at his bail hearing that “hate won’t win.” She told him those words held true. Though he hoped to drive people apart, he instead brought people closer together, she said. He had failed in his mission to sow division through his twisted and bloody plan.  emanuel_victims_t580“Instead of starting a race war, you started a love war,” said Melvin Graham, who lost his sister Cynthia Graham Hurd in the shooting.

“I forgive you for you actions. You are just a body being used. You didn’t understand the presence of the evil that possesses you,” added Daniel Simmons, Jr., son of Rev. Simmons. “But thank God that he gives us the opportunity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the heartbeat that pulls us to another level.”

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. days after the June 2015 mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others.

“Yes, I forgive you,” said another witness Felicia Sanders who lost her son Tywanza and her aunt Susie Jackson in the shooting. “That was the easiest thing I had to do. … But you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. May God have mercy on your soul.”

“You can’t have my joy,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister died in the shooting. “It is simply not yours to take.”

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” added Anthony Thompson, a relative of victim Myra Thompson. “But take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess.”

“Your choices brought us here, but our choice–to respond with love–has kept us here,” Alana Simmons said. “We are all moving on in love and moving on in strength and nothing you can ever do will ever be able to stop that.”

Read more about the South Carolina shooting and forgiveness for the shooter:

Parents Forgive Attacker Who Severely Burned Their Daughter

The Christian Post, Indonesia – Parents of a 4-year-old girl who suffered severe burns in a Sunday terror attack on a church in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, have forgiven the accused and have said they will not even ask God to punish him.

A bomb, reportedly a Molotov cocktail, was thrown inside the Gerejamolotov-cocktail Oikumene Church compound where children were playing, killing a toddler and injuring three other infants.

Trinity Hutahaean, the 4-year-old girl, was severely wounded in the attack. The toddler’s aunt, Roina Simanjuntak, says the family has forgiven the accused.

“God teaches us to forgive and not to pay revenge,” Simanjuntak quoted the girl’s parents as saying. “I have a big hope that my family members, especially Trinity’s mother, can face this hard time. She is still in traumaindonesia-memorial after seeing what happened to her child.”

Despite tradition to the contrary, the mother did not pray to God to punish the accused, Simanjuntak added.

While the majority of the people in Indonesia are known to be tolerant and moderate, there are several extremist groups in the country. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,000 churches in the archipelago have been closed over the last decade due to pressure from such groups.indonesia_map3

Read more:

The Christian Post, Indonesia: Parents of 4-Y-O Burned in Church Bombing Say ‘God Teaches Us to Forgive’ “

The Jakarta Post, Kalimantan church bomber linked to terrorist movement

I think that offenses against children are the worst because they are innocent persons who could carry their hurt into adulthood, compromising health and relationships. How can we go about helping children to forgive if they have not yet had serious unfairness against them?

We have teacher guides for forgiveness education in which the teacher gives the forgiveness instruction through stories.  As children and adolescents see how story characters resolve conflicts and do the inner transformation of forgiveness, then they have models of how to forgive.  It is important that students are not pressured to forgive, but are drawn to it if they wish to try it.

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.

New Study: Forgiveness Makes Kids Happier

It might be worth our while to move beyond “I’m sorry” as the be-all and end-all goal of conflict resolution for children. To raise happier children, we should take steps that lead to a lot more “I forgive you’s.”

That’s one of the dramatic take-aways of a just-completed study by three researchers9-13 at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. In a sample of 275 nine- to 13-year-olds who completed self-reported and behavioral measures of forgiveness and various indicators of psychological well-being, the study found that forgiveness can help children maintain strong relationships and improve psychological well-being.

According to the authors, it’s long been known that peer and friendship relations in late childhood play an essential role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The research shows that friendships are associated with a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, and fewer social problems, both concurrently and later in life.

In contrast, children and adolescents who lack close friendships are more likely to manifest behavioral and emotional problems during childhood and even adulthood. Children who are less forgiving have lower self-esteem, are more socially anxious, and are more likely to engage in deviant behaviors.

The study also emphasized the need for 9-13 3early childhood forgiveness education, particularly during stages in which friendships are most important, such as in early childhood when children start to untie their parental bonds and increasingly focus on relationships with peers. In late adolescence, when the emphasis shifts from friendships to partner relationships, or during adulthood, when individuals spend less time with their friends, the association between forgiving friends and well-being may be weaker.

Read more:
Does Forgiveness Make Kids Happier?
⇒ An article in Greater Good, the Science of a Meaningful Life
 

Interpersonal Forgiveness and Psychological Well-being in Late Childhood   Access to the complete study

Why We Need Forgiveness Education. . .NOW
⇒ A blog post by Dr. Robert Enright

What Is Self-Forgiveness?

When you self-forgive you are struggling to love yourself when you are not feeling lovable because of your actions. You are offering to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense that you have inherent worth, despite your actions, that you are more self-forgiveness3than your actions, that you can and should honor yourself as a person even if you are imperfect, and that you did wrong and need to correct that wrong done to other people.

In self-forgiveness you never (as far as I have ever seen) offend yourself alone. You also offend others and so part of self-forgiveness is to deliberately engage in seeking forgiveness from those others and righting the wrongs (as best you can under the circumstances) that you did toward others. Thus, we have two differences between forgiving others and forgiving the self. In the latter, you seek forgiveness from those hurt by your actions and you strive for justice toward them.

Robert

  Editor’s Note: Learn more about self-forgiveness in either of Dr. Enright’s books             8 Keys to Forgiveness or Forgiveness Is a Choice.