What if there is no justice in place to protect you?  Perhaps, it is a problem with justice not forgiveness, but do you still recommend forgiveness even if justice is not available to protect you?  Why or why not? 

Are you asking this?—What if the boss is obnoxious and you want to leave?  The old job with this boss is bad for you and there is no better job on the horizon.  Might forgiving the boss keep you in an unhealthy job?  I do not think that forgiveness is a weakness here.  You can forgive and then perhaps, with reduced anger, ask for a more just situation with the boss.  In this case, forgiveness may help you to seek fairness where, right now, justice does not exist.  Your trying to **create** a just situation, after you forgive, may be your protection.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

Is there a difference between forgiving and wishing someone well?  I wish my ex-husband well, but I am still very angry with him because he broke the marriage covenant.

The late Lewis Smedes in his book, Forgive and Forget, made the point that people are starting to forgive when they wish the other person well.  Thus, you likely are at the beginning of forgiveness and this is a positive step.  Now you need to press onward toward deeper forgiveness.  Try to see your ex-husband’s worth; try to see his emotional wounds which might have contributed to the break-up; try to be aware of any compassion that may be growing in you as you do this work.  The result, based on our research, likely will be reduced anger.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

What is one important insight you can give to me if I want to ask for forgiveness from someone I wounded emotionally?

I would realize that the person has a wounded heart and may need time to forgive. In other words, when you approach the person do not expect an immediate, “Yes, I forgive you.”  So, you will need to be ready to wait.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

Forgiving for me is a struggle, but I can accomplish it.  My issue is with reconciliation, which I am finding very awkward with one particular person.  Can reconciliation ever be truly accomplished after a brutal betrayal?

Congratulations on forgiving in the face of a “brutal betrayal.”  This is not at all easy to accomplish.  Regarding reconciliation, your struggle may be centered on the theme of trust. How trustworthy is the person whom you have forgiven?  If you are not able to establish trust, at least not yet, this may be the cause of your struggle.  Try to get a sense of whether or not the other is sorry for the injustice, uses words that suggest sincerity of repentance to you, and shows behavior that is consistent with the inner sorrow and words of repentance.

For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?

A year ago, my wife hurt me deeply, right down to my core.  She did not apologize then or now.  She does not feel responsible because she did not intend to hurt me.  I do not want revenge at all.  While I believe that I can forgive her, even without an apology, is it inconsistent with the notion of forgiveness that I feel she cannot remain my wife if she will not take responsibility for her part in my suffering?

Yes, it is inconsistent to both forgive your wife and to consider leaving her for the hurt she caused you, especially when her action appears to be a one-time act that was not repeated. To put in perspective what I am saying, I think you may have a good case against your marriage if: a) she showed a pattern before marriage that made it impossible for her to be a wife to you; b) she continued this pattern that is so extreme that she was not a wife to you during the marriage, and c) it appears, from the counsel you receive from competently wise people, that she does not have the capacity for the future to truly be a wife to you.

Perhaps you both need to sit down and revisit the hurtful event from a year ago. She says that she never intended to hurt you. Sometimes, intentions that are not directed toward unjust and cruel actions nonetheless are morally wrong. Here is an example: A person at a party knows that she will be driving. Yet, she drinks and then drinks to excess. She gets behind the wheel of the car, drives, crashes into another car, and breaks the leg of the other driver. She did not intend wrong. She tried to be careful even though she had too much alcohol in her. The act itself was negligent even though there was no intent to break another person’s leg. It was negligent precisely because the consequences of driving under the influence can be dire even with the best of intentions.

Does your wife see this: one can act unjustly even with intentions that are not leaning toward doing something unjust? Do you see this: Her actions, though hurtful to you, may not have been unjust? Try to have a civil dialogue about these issues. And continue to deepen your forgiveness and to see that your avowed commitment to your wife is far deeper than one even enormous hurt that she inflicted on you.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

Take the Long Perspective When It Is Difficult to Forgive

Think about one time in your childhood when you had what seemed to be a serious disagreement with a friend. At the time, did it seem like this breach would last forever? Did it? How long did it take to either reconcile or to find a new friend? Time has a way of changing our circumstances. This is not to advocate a kind of passive approach to life here—such as, “Oh, I’ll just wait it out and not bother to exert any effort.” That is not the point. The point is to take a long perspective so that you can see beyond the next hill to a place that is more settled and the pain is not so great. You already saw in your childhood that conflicts end. And the consequences of those conflicts (feeling sad or angry) also end. Why should that same process of change not also apply now? Try to see your circumstance, as realistically as you can, one month from now. Try to see your circumstance six months from now. Try to see yourself two years from now. Will you be the same person? Will you respond to injustices in the exact same way as you did three months ago? Probably not. You will likely be able to meet challenges with greater strength and wisdom as you continue on the forgiveness journey.

Enright, Robert. 8 Keys to Forgiveness (8 Keys to Mental Health) . W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

I was hurt in a 5-year relationship and now I am hesitant to get into any other relationship. Does this lack of courage on my part suggest that I have not forgiven the one who hurt me?

The issue here seems to be one of a lack of trust. You may or may not have forgiven the one with whom you were in a relationship for the 5 years. Even if you have completely forgiven, you still may lack trust and this is not a sign of unforgiveness. It is a sign that you know hurt is possible when you commit to others. Forgiveness can help with taking the risk and at the same time your using common sense in the new relationship, along with sincere acts of trustworthiness by the other, should help to slowly create a trust with the new person.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

What would you say to someone who is too stubborn to feel compassion toward the one who hurt him/her?

We would say this, “Your feeling compassion may take time. So, your feeling today that you do not want or need compassion is not necessarily your final word on the matter. If you refuse to examine at all the possibility of developing compassion, even over time, then you have to be careful that your own anger does not end up hurting you.”

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

I thought I had completely forgiven my ‘ex’ and last night I had a dream that reawakened all of my anger. I had forgiven, maybe, a year ago. Now here I am again fuming. Do you have a suggestion for me to really get over this and forgive permanently?

We have to realize that forgiveness, as the late Lewis Smedes said, is an imperfect enterprise for imperfect people. It is common to have forgiven and then to be triggered by something unexpected, whether it is a dream or meeting the person for the first time, as examples. Because you already know the path of forgiveness, I recommend that you get your backpack on again, and your hiking shoes, and travel the forgiveness road once again. This time it may be quicker with deeper results. And please do not be discouraged if and when you have another trigger for your anger in the months or years ahead. Go on the forgiveness journey once again.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I am finding no excuses for what my husband has done to me. When I try to forgive, it is very difficult for me to cultivate any sense of empathy toward him. What would you suggest to help me forgive?

You need not find any excuses for your husband’s behavior if you are to forgive him. Forgiveness is not based on finding excuses, but instead is based on seeing his worth, not because of what he did, but in spite of this. Further, try to see his inner world. Is he wounded in any way? Confused? Do you see a human being rather than someone who is less than human? These kinds of perspectives can increase empathy and foster forgiveness.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.