How can families persevere in practicing forgiveness? My worry within my own family is that as I introduce the idea of forgiveness, people may get initially excited and then it just fades away.

Perseverance in the practice of forgiveness takes a strong will.  Do you have that strong will to quietly and gently and without force keep the message alive that you value forgiveness and would like it to be a part of your family?  As an analogy, starting a fitness program is good, but continuing with it is even better.  How do people continue?  They establish routines; they enjoy the kind of exercise that they do; they create an expectation for themselves to continue.  The same can occur with becoming forgivingly fit.

For additional information, see:  Learning to Forgive Others.

Forgiveness is hard for me. Is it all right to start and stop the process of forgiveness?

Yes, it is all right to start and stop the forgiveness process if you feel that you need a rest from the challenges of forgiving.  As an analogy, if we want to be physically fit, we do not work at that fitness 10 hours a day every day.  We need to be more temperate than that.  So, working on forgiveness for an hour or less some of the days of a week seems reasonable to me.  Taking a week off is fine.  I was asked by a person if she could take a year off of the forgiveness process.  This, to me, would be similar to taking off a year of physical fitness training.  One likely would get out of shape waiting that long.  One probably would get out of forgiveness-fitness shape as well waiting for a year.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I suffer from chronic anxiety. Will this alter how I go through the forgiveness process relative to those who are not suffering in this way?

Sometimes our anxiety comes from not feeling safe. Sometimes our not feeling safe emerges when others treat us unfairly. In other words, you may be expecting poor treatment from others now, even those who usually are fair.

A first step may be to think of one person who may have hurt you and at whom you still harbor resentment. You can forgive through the exact same pathway as described, for example, in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. With anger lessened, anxiety can diminish. Of course, this will vary for each person. We have to be gentle with ourselves as we learn to forgive, to give up anger, and to know with some confidence that we can meet the next interpersonal challenge with forgiveness, helping us to meet these challenges with less anxiety than in the past.

For additional information, see:  Learning to Forgive Others.

Do you think it is harder to forgive a person for one really bad offense or to forgive someone who constantly is doing small things to demean and does so almost every day?

The answer will vary by person and by how gravely serious the one offense is. Many people tell me that they struggle with forgiving those who hurt them on a regular basis. There are two reasons for this: 1) the 20th offense is harder than the first because there is a cumulative effect. The resentments get stronger as the problems persist; and 2) the person sometimes feels trapped, as if the problem will never end. This is why it is so important not only to forgive but also to seek fairness from the other. Living in harmony can occur when the one with a consistent pattern of unfairness comes to see this as unfair and is willing to change. Forgiving and correcting work well together as a team.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

I just do not have the confidence to forgive one of my parents from issues of long ago. I keep telling myself that I will not be able to get it done. What can you suggest to me that might boost my confidence?

First, I suggest that you look back on your life to concrete examples of your forgiving others. Have you had at least one successful attempt in your past? If so, you have shown yourself that you can forgive.

Even if you have never forgiven someone, you can start now with someone who is easier to forgive than your father. Try to recall someone who has hurt you in the past, but who has not hurt you severely. Start the forgiveness process with him or her and keep at it until you have forgiven. Once you succeed with this person, then try another, again who has not hurt you gravely

Once you have successfully practiced forgiveness on these two people, keep in mind the path that you walked and now apply it to your father. The practice may give you the confidence you need.

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

 

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 am not angry with the person who hurt me. Instead, I am sad. Can you differentiate anger and sadness in the forgiveness process?

People have different affective reactions when hurt by others. As you say, sometimes people respond with sadness, some with confusion, and some with anger. I focus on the theme of anger because that is the one emotion that can deepen and cause even greater pain than currently is the case. People who are sad can and should go through the forgiveness process if they so choose. Going though the forgiveness process should lessen the sadness, even if it will not eliminate the sadness entirely in all cases. People who are very angry and who have been so for a long time should especially think about forgiving as a protection for their own well-being, as well as for the possibility of a renewed relationship, if this is a goal. Deep and abiding anger has been shown to relate to a number of mental health challenges as seen in the book, Forgiveness Therapy by R. Enright and R. Fitzgibbons (2015).

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.