What is the one, central issue about forgiveness that you would give to those who are preparing for marriage?

I would encourage them to get to know very deeply what forgiveness is (a moral virtue in which you practice goodness toward those who are not good to you) and is not (to forgive is not to excuse unjust behavior, to automatically reconcile when the other is a danger to you, nor to abandon the quest for justice). Then I would urge both people to examine the injustices which they suffered in their family of origin, forgive the people, and discuss the pattern of injustices together so that they do not reproduce the injustices in their own marriage.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

Can you give me some pointers for bringing forgiveness into my family?

Yes, please consider three ideas.

First, you can be aware of what I call “teachable forgiveness moments.” For example, suppose you are watching a film in which revenge is occurring. You could ask, after the film is over, “How might the story have continued if the one on whom revenge was sought decided to forgive and then seek justice in a reasonable way?”

Second, you could have a regular conversation, say once a week, at mealtimes in which you ask, “How did it go for you today? Were there any challenges? Did you consider forgiving under those circumstances?”

Third, you might consider sharing your own experiences, at least on occasion, in which you had to forgive someone at work or in some other context. The point is not to pressure family members to forgive, but to show them the way by your example.

Learn more at Family Forgiveness Guidelines.

This 3-Year-Old’s Explanation of Forgiveness is Simply Brilliant!

Backstrom described the evening’s events — which included some pre-bedtime arguing — that led to the moment the 3-year-old took it upon herself to go ahead and be the bigger person and “forgive” her mom:

“My daughter and I just had a knock-down, drag-out bedtime hour,” the mom wrote on Facebook. “Finally, about ten minutes ago, I put her to bed and through clinched teeth said, ‘I love you, Holland, but not another word tonight. You are going to sleep now. I’m done fussing over stuffed animals.’”

Of course, her daughter had just one more thing to say. The words that came out of her mouth, however, were definitely unexpected.

“‘Mommy,’ my three year old said, staring me down with venom in her tiny voice… ‘I FORGIVE YOU!!!’”:

The mom was surprised to hear this and followed up by asking her daughter if she knew what “forgiveness” meant. Her response proves that this tot is wise beyond her years.

“‘It means you were wrong, and I’m tired of being mad, and now I’m going to sleep and my heart won’t have a tummy ache.’”

The mom ended the post by noting that this was not only a humbling moment for her as a mom, but it could also serve as an important lesson for everyone.

“Tonight I was taught a lesson in forgiveness by a three year old,” the mom wrote. “It was a gut punch, too. And you’re dang right I climbed in that bed and loved on her. Because to be honest, MY heart had a bit of a tummy ache. I was reminded by my toddler to never go to bed in anger. Because when you do, your heart will have a tummy ache. And you know what? I’ve been alive for 35 years, and I’ve got to give it to her: She’s not wrong.”


Psychologists, meanwhile, say that forgiveness is somewhat more of a complicated matter. Psychotherapist Nancy Colier has defined forgiveness as a type of “freedom” in her writings for Psychology Today:

“Forgiveness, ultimately, is about freedom,” she writes. “When we need someone else to change in order for us to be okay, we are a prisoner. In the absence of forgiveness, we’re shackled to anger and resentment, uncomfortably comfortable in our misbelief that non-forgiveness rights the wrongs of the past and keeps the other on the hook.”

She goes on to write that withholding forgiveness — holding out for a change from the other party —can actually leave us powerless.

“What we want from the other, the one we can’t forgive, is most often, love,” she writes. “Forgiveness is ultimately about choosing to offer ourselves love—and with it, freedom.”

Or in other, simpler words, forgiveness is releasing anger so that our hearts don’t have a “tummy ache.” Which, honestly, sounds like the healthiest course of action for all parties.

Well said, Holland. Well said.


This article was written by Augusta Statz and is reposted, with permission, from the website Simplemost.com. The goal of Simplemost “is to provide women with the news that can impact their lives, along with ideas and tips to help make things just a little easier.”


Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and the man Time magazine called “the forgiveness trailblazer,” has authored more than 60 forgiveness-related blog posts for Psychology Today during the past two years.    You can access all of them at this link.


I was hurt by a stranger and so I have no clue about his past. How can I do the thinking work of forgiveness toward this person, given that I know nothing about him?

We talk about taking the personal, the global, and the cosmic perspectives when trying to understand and forgive another person. The personal perspective, which you find difficult to take, asks the forgiver to examine the past of the offending person and to see if this person suffered injustices and emotional wounds from others. Because you cannot know these issues, you can move to the global and cosmic perspectives. I will share only the global perspective for you here. If you find it helpful, then you might want to go more deeply and consider the cosmic perspective, depending on your belief system.

In the global perspective, we ask people to see the common humanity between yourself as forgiver and the one who offended you. Here are some questions centered on the global perspective: Do you share a common humanity with the one who hurt you? Do you both have unique DNA in that, when both of you die, there never will be another human being exactly like you on this planet? Does this make you special, unique, and irreplaceable? Does this make the one who hurt you special, unique, and irreplaceable? Will that person die some day? Will you die some day? You share that as part of your common humanity. Do you need sufficient rest and nutrition to stay healthy? Does the one who hurt you need the same? Do you see your common humanity? In all likelihood, even though you cannot know for sure, that person has been treated unfairly in the past by others. You very well may share the fact that both of you carry wounds in your heart.

For more information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I have been working on forgiving someone and it has been about two months now. I still am angry. What if my anger never goes away?

If you have been deeply hurt by another’s unfairness, please be gentle with yourself. The process of forgiving takes time. Two months is not a sufficient amount of time in your particular case. I would recommend the following:

a) Take more time in the forgiving.

b) Examine the different units of our Process Model of Forgiveness. Which of the units
do you think you have mastered? Which are still a struggle for you? Go back to those that are challenges and spend more time on them.

c) Regarding your anger, has it lessened, stayed the same, or deepened in these two months? If it has lessened, are you in control of the anger or is the anger controlling you?

d) Anger does not necessarily go away entirely. You may have some residual anger left over. This is why I asked if you now feel more control over the anger. If so, then your accepting, at least for now, that you have some residual anger may be a next step for you.

e) If your anger remains and if you feel that the anger is controlling you, then you might want to re-think whom to forgive. Sometimes, for example, a man is trying to forgive his wife and he makes little progress. At times in such cases, the husband is very angry with his mother; his wife by her actions reminds him of his mother, whom he has not forgiven. If for now he puts aside the task of forgiving his wife and turns instead to forgiving his mother, this then can open up the forgiveness process more deeply when he again turns to the goal of forgiving his wife.

f) Please have hope that your anger will lessen. I say that because the scientific evidence
shows that as people work on the forgiveness process and give it enough time, anger
lessens to a statistically significant degree.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I am not sure if I really want to forgive. How will I know when I am ready?

As you look within, consider asking yourself these questions: a) Have my attempts at this point to heal from this difficult experience been effective? b) If not, what other options other than forgiveness do I have? c) Am I hopeful that these other options will work for me?; d) Might forgiveness help me to heal? e) Have I confronted any fears about forgiving or any doubts about what the forgiveness process might involve? If you do not have viable options and if you have overcome fears or doubts about forgiveness, then perhaps it is time to give this a try.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

 

I am considering going to a therapist so that I can work on forgiving someone. How can I be sure that it is time to switch psychotherapeutic approaches and focus now on forgiveness?

I think you have to look within and ask this: Have the psychotherapeutic approaches in which you have engaged worked for you? One way to discern this is to ask yourself: On a 1-to-10 scale, how angry am I at a particular person who has been very unjust to me? Let a “1” stand for no anger at all and a “10” stand for so much anger that you can hardly take it. If your answer is in the 8, 9, or 10 range, and if your previous and current psychotherapies have not reduced that resentment, then it may be time to try Forgiveness Therapy.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

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