Starting forgiveness is not so bad, but continuing with it is rough.  I kind of want to move on to other things in my life.  So, how do I persevere to the end and complete forgiveness without giving up?

In the book, The Forgiving Life, I talk about the good will, the free will, and the strong will.  The good will allows you to see those who hurt you in all of their woundedness and to respond to them with kindness.  The free will allows you to say “yes” to the forgiveness process itself.  The strong will allows you to keep going even though it is difficult.

Try to be aware of the strong will.  Cultivate it in other areas even apart from forgiveness.  For example, stay with the challenge of an exercise program; finish the book you started; complete a home-project that you started a while back.  These efforts can strengthen the strong will which can advance you toward the finish line of forgiveness.  Please keep in mind that even when you reach that finish line of forgiveness, anger can resurface later.  Apply the good will, the free will, and the strong will again as you revisit the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see On the Importance of Perseverance when Forgiving.

I am in the process of forgiving someone, but occasionally I have fantasies of revenge. These are bothering me. What advice can you give me?

The late Lewis Smedes in his book, Forgive and Forget, reminds us that forgiveness is an imperfect process for imperfect people. We do not necessarily reach perfection in forgiving right away, but instead this takes time. Try to be gentle with yourself when you have these fantasies. Try to remind yourself that you have made a commitment to “do no harm” to the one whom you are forgiving. This reminder will give you confidence that you will not act on the fantasy.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I have started the forgiveness process, but I have stopped because it is too painful. Should I go back to this process soon or would time off be more beneficial?

The key is this: When you look within, what do you see regarding your starting again? Do you have any motivation to try or not? If you have no motivation at all, then you need more time. Another question to ask yourself is this: Do I have the virtue of courage to go ahead? Courage can be part of the motivation. Another question is this: Do I have the energy right now to move forward with forgiving? Sometimes we need a rest and this is not dishonorable. As a final question, you might ask yourself this: Do I need to forgive someone else first? If the one you are trying to forgive has been deeply unfair, you might consider first forgiving someone for a lesser offense. You then can get more used to the forgiveness process, build up what I call “the forgiveness muscles” and then try to forgive the one who is more of a challenge.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I am trying to forgive, but I do not have a family member or a friend to accompany me on this journey. What would you recommend. I am a Jewish believer.

We have self-help books that we characteristically use in our forgiveness research. These include Forgiveness Is a Choice (2001) and 8 Keys to Forgiveness (2015). I walk you through the process of forgiveness in a step-by-step fashion in these books. They have been shown scientifically to be effective in promoting forgiveness. As a Jewish believer, you are not alone in your forgiving. You can rely on God’s grace to assist you in the forgiveness process.

Learn more at Forgiveness books.

What Is a Good Heart?

A close friend asked one of us yesterday, “What is a good heart?” We never had been asked this before. Our response is below. What is your response?

A good heart first has suffered. In the suffering, the person knows that all on this planet are subjected to suffering and so his heart is compassionate, patient, supportive, and loving as best he can in this fallen world. The good heart is forgiving, ever forgiving, vigilant in forgiving. The good heart tries to be in service to others. The good heart is no longer afraid of suffering and has joy because of the suffering, not in spite of it. Having suffered and having passed through suffering, the good heart dances. Others do not understand the good, joyous heart. Yet, the one with the good heart does not compromise the goodness and the joy. It is like a valuable gift received and she knows it.

Robert

How can I keep the light of forgiveness burning in my heart? There are so many distractions in contemporary culture. Forgiveness could be easily forgotten.

A key is this: Know that what you call “the light of forgiveness” is important to you. Know further that it could fade in you if you do not give it the attention it deserves. Aristotle emphasized practice as a way to grow in the virtues. The more you practice forgiveness, the better you become at it. The better you become at it, then the more you develop what Aristotle called a love for the virtue.

In my book, The Forgiving Life, I focus on what I call the strong will. You need this strong will to persevere in the practice of forgiveness, even though all around you are opportunities to ignore forgiveness and seek pleasure to avoid pain. Forgiveness can be painful work, but the pain, in my view, is far less than carrying the pain of deep resentment for many years.

I wish you the best in your persevering journey to develop a love of the virtue of forgiveness.

Learn more at The Forgiving Life.

Those who are in positions of authority at my work are overbearing and angry. I just can’t see how I can survive this even with forgiveness. After all, I go in every day to their anger and more anger. I feel like giving up. Can you help me?

I hear this very frequently from people who are in challenging marriages as well as difficult work situations. My advice is this: It becomes more imperative that you practice forgiveness every day.

Start the forgiveness process as you make your way into work. Be ready to talk from a position of care and civility as you bear the pain of their anger. As you go home after work, spend some time in forgiving. I know it is hard work, but you now have this challenge and one way to overcome your own anger and frustration is to forgive. Even if you were to leave the company for a new career, your inner world still likely will be disrupted. Forgiveness then can help you even if you are gone from your current position. Also, your consistent practice of forgiving may help you to endure and overcome the frustration as you stay in your current position.

For additional information, see Choose Love, Not Hate.