I have noticed in some of the more recent posts here, you have been discussing the theme of taking a cognitive perspective on the person who has hurt me.  How do I gain this cognitive perspective on myself if I want to forgive myself?

A key here is to apply these new thinking perspectives, which you have offered to others as you forgive them, now to yourself.  For example, try to see that you have inherent (built-in) worth, not because of what you did that was offensive, but in spite of this.  Try to see that you share a common humanity with others.  While not excusing behavior in need of change, try to see that you are much more than those behaviors.  As you engage in this kind of thinking, this may help you to forgive yourself.

For additional information, see Self-Forgiveness.

As a follow-up to my previous question about retaining anger for years, is it truly forgiving another if there is anger still present, even if that anger is mild and not toxic?

Yes, if you wish the other well, if you see the other as possessing unconditional inherent (built-in) worth, and if you have committed to doing no harm to that person, then you have forgiven. Having some anger does not invalidate all of this goodness that you have toward the one who hurt you.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

How does forgiving work in huge issues such as the Holocaust, for example? Can a person forgive an entire group that has followed a misguided ideology?

This idea of forgiving in the context of “huge issues” such as the Holocaust is extremely controversial. Some will say that forgiving is not appropriate in this context for a number of reasons (The vast majority of people in the current generation were not in the Holocaust and so it is not their place to offer forgiving; some injustices are so grave as to eliminate the possibility of offering forgiving). Yet, there are people who are on record as offering their own forgiveness to the Nazis. The late Eva Mozes Kor, in the film Forgiving Dr. Mengele, is one example of this. People can forgive groups because when we forgive we do forgive people; groups are made up of people. Thus, if certain people so choose, they can forgive those who instituted Nazism or slavery, as two examples.

Also, the philosopher, Trudy Govier, makes the distinction among primary, secondary, and tertiary forgiving. Primary forgiving is when someone hurts you directly; secondary forgiving occurs when you are hurt because a loved one was hurt (a grandson, then, who is hurt by the death of a grandparent in the Holocaust, can forgive for his own sake, but not forgive on behalf of the grandparent); tertiary forgiving is when you forgive, for example, a public official who is guilty of corruption in another country. In this case, you are not hurt directly and, let us suppose for the sake of this example, none of your relatives were hurt directly. You feel badly, even resentful, and so tertiary forgiving is appropriate.

We need to remember that forgiving is a person’s own choice. Even if everyone else says that injustice X is too severe for anyone to offer forgiveness, we still might be surprised to see that someone steps up and decides to forgive despite popular opinion to the contrary.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

Can one begin the forgiveness process without first having a thought about committing to forgiveness?

Yes, one can have an intuitive sense that forgiving is good. One can try to “step inside the other’s shoes” to see the other’s woundedness. These processes actually are part of the forgiveness process, but not everyone is aware of this. As the forgiver softens the heart toward the other, then the commitment to forgive might emerge or develop strongly enough so that the person consciously commits to the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

A Reflection on Forgiveness and the Forgotten People

As I look out the window of the hotel in downtown London, awaiting a flight soon to the Middle East, I see a bustling populace moving quickly……except for one man who is shuffling along slowly, quite in contrast to the others. As I watch, he stops, faces a passerby, and obviously is asking for funds. He is ignored. He shuffles a few more steps, approaches another, and is met with the same non-response.

His pattern is repeated over and over. I counted at least 15 approaches and 15 rejections. He then disappeared from view. I think he was invisible to many that day, even to those who were within view of him.

How we bristle when rejected by a co-worker who is not showing respect today or by others who do not share our goals. The man, refused by others over and over, probably felt wounded by the rejections.

The dear man in London was continuously rebuffed, and he kept trying……until after awhile he simply stopped asking. This sequence of approach-and-avoidance reminds me of Ralph McTell’s now classic song, Streets of London (originally released in 1969 and re-released in 2017):

(c) The Bowes Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
With his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday’s paper telling
      yesterday’s news…..

In the all-night cafe
A
t a quarter past eleven,
Same old man sitting there on               his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his teacup,
Each tea lasts an hour
Then he wanders home alone……

In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn’t care.

The word “forgotten” catches my attention. That was the exact word used by imprisoned people serving life sentences with whom we spoke over a month ago. “Once you are here [in a maximum-security prison],” one gentleman explained to me, “you are forgotten.”

The forgotten people……

Yet, our forgiveness studies have taught me this: All people, regardless of circumstance, have inherent or built-in worth. The man, so continually rejected today on the street in London, has as much worth as the royalty in the palace. The one in maximum security prison for life has as much worth as the warden.

And in all likelihood, many of “the forgotten people” have stories to tell us of how they, themselves, were mistreated prior to their current plight. They have stories that include their own particular kind of pain, heartache, feelings that are part of the human condition. We need to hear those stories, to acknowledge their unique pain, their responses to that pain, and offer those suffering injustices from the past a chance to forgive. The forgiveness, for some, might be life changing as our science over the past three decades has shown for others.

We must not let forgiveness be the forgotten virtue.

We must not let the homeless and the imprisoned be the forgotten people.

Robert

Green Bay Packers Foundation Provides Grant to IFI’s “Drive for Others’ Lives” Campaign

The Green Bay Packers Foundation on Wednesday awarded a grant to the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) for its “Drive for Others’ Lives” driver safety campaign.  Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI, accepted the award during an exclusive award-winners luncheon in the 5-story tall Lambeau Field Atrium adjacent to historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.

“We’re proud to award a record $1 million through our annual Packers Foundation grants this year,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said at the event. “We are inspired by the outstanding recipient organizations, who have critical roles in the community and the positive impact thy have on those they serve every day.”

To be eligible, an organization must have been:

  • Physically located in the state of Wisconsin;
  • A not-for-profit tax exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code; and,
  • Requesting funding for a project/program that addresses issues for at least one of the  focus areas for 2019 that were animal welfare, civic and community, environmental, health and wellness (including drug/alcohol and domestic violence causes).
IFI co-founder Dr. Robert Enright accepted an award from the Green Bay Packers Foundation at a Dec. 4 ceremony in the stadium’s Atrium.

“The IFI grant application focused on the central shared idea between forgiveness and safe driving that all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable and thus all have inherent worth,” Dr. Enright explained after accepting the Green Bay Packers Foundation check. “We need to drive–and live–with this in mind.” 

The “Drive for Others’ Lives” campaign was created by the IFI using scientifically-tested forgiveness principles to encourage development of prosocial behaviors that will help save the lives of drivers, vehicle passengers, and pedestrians.
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The multi-faceted campaign includes free distribution of professionally-designed vehicle bumper stickers imprinted with the “Drive for Others’ Lives” slogan. The 11½” x 3″ bumper stickers have a glossy finish that will last for years and the removable adhesive backing will not leave any residue on the surface where it is affixed. More than 2,000 bumper stickers have been distributed by the IFI since the campaign began earlier this year.

“The bumper sticker will alert everyone who sees it to remember that safe driving practices are not only for you and your occupants but for everyone, because every person is important and every person has inherent worth,” Dr. Enright added. “This idea of inherent worth is basic to all of the forgiveness work we undertake.”

The annual grant program through which the IFI received its award is a component of Green Bay Packers Give Back, the Foundation’s all-encompassing community outreach initiative.  Including this year’s grants, the Foundation now has distributed more than $12.68 million for charitable purposes since it was established in 1986 by Judge Robert J. Parins, then president of the Packers Corporation, “as a vehicle to assure continued contributions to charity.”

  • To learn more about the “Drive for Others’ Lives” campaign, CLICK HERE.
  • To get your free bumper stickers, CLICK HERE.
The “DRIVE FOR OTHERS’ LIVES” bumper sticker was prominently displayed as part of a slide presentation in the Lambeau Field Atrium during the awards luncheon.

You talk about forgiveness being not only giving up resentment but also developing compassion and even moral love toward the one who has hurt you. What does it mean to love a stranger who had no relationship with you prior to his offense? There is no trust or relationship to restore to start with, but even in that case, do you think it is possible to love that offender? If you do, would you please give some examples?

Yes, we can love strangers when we realize that all people have inherent (built-in) worth. Therefore, we can serve those we do not know. We can come to the aid of strangers. When we give money to a suffering person who has her back to a wall as you pass by, you are showing that she has inherent worth. When you refuse to retaliate toward a stranger who is not good to you, you are showing that the person has inherent worth. As you show such worth to others, you are loving those people as you serve them.

For additional information, see: Learning to Forgive Others.