Would you say that someone truly has forgiven another if the one who forgives refuses to reconcile with the other person?

The answer depends on the person’s reason for not reconciling. If the one who offended is sorry for the wrongdoing and is making sincere attempts to change, then this can make reconciliation a definite possibility. If the forgiver refuses to even consider reconciliation at this point, and if the forgiver still is showing deep anger, then it is possible that the forgiveness is either at a very early stage or is not genuine. On the other hand, if the one who engaged in the wrongdoing remains unrepentant and refuses to change the behavior, the forgiver still can forgiver deeply from the heart and not reconcile because it could be unhealthy or even dangerous, depending on how hurtful the injustice is.

For additional information see: Learning to Forgive Others.

The Role of Forgiveness in the Process of Healing

Rome, Italy – At the direction of Pope Francis himself, 190 of the Catholic Church’s highest-ranking officials gathered at the Vatican in Rome last month for a 4-day meeting on “The Protection of Minors in the Church.” Participants included 114 presidents of bishops’ conferences or their delegates, representatives from 14 Eastern churches in communion with Rome, female and male leaders of religious orders, the chiefs of several Vatican congregations, victim advocates, and others.After an introduction by the Holy Father, the very first keynote speaker at the meeting addressed what the Church–particularly those in attendance–must do to help the victims heal from the effects of the abuse they endured: implement the healing process developed and scientifically-tested by Dr. Robert Enright, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin.

“For this portion of my presentation, I will rely heavily on Dr. Robert Enright, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, and the pioneer in the social scientific study of forgiveness,” said  Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila (Philippines). “We are collaborating with him on the programme of forgiveness in the Philippines. In fact, in this very moment there is a session among Catholic School Educators in Manila on “Pain, wound and forgiveness”.

“According to Dr. Enright,” Cardinal Tagle continued, “one concern that we must address is: Once justice is served, how do we help the victims to heal from the effects of the abuse? Justice is necessary but by itself does not heal the broken human heart. If we are to serve the victims and all those wounded by the crisis, we need to take seriously their wound of resentment and pain and the need for healing.”

Demonstrating his remarkable comprehension of Dr. Enright’s 20-Step pathway to healing, Cardinal Tagle added, “Resentment can be like a disease, that slowly and steadily infects people, until their enthusiasm and energy are gone. With increasing stress, they are prone to heightened anxiety and depression, lowered-self-images, and interpersonal conflicts that arise from the inner brokenness.

“Yet, before we even raise the issue of asking the victims to forgive as part of their healing, we must clarify that we are not suggesting that they should just let it all go, excuse the abuse, just move on. No. Far from it. Without question, we know that when victims come to a moment of forgiving others who have harmed them, a deeper healing takes place and the understandable resentments that build up in their hearts are reconciled. We know that forgiveness is one powerful and even scientifically supported pathway for eliminating pain, resentment and the human heart.

“We as the Church should continue to walk with those profoundly  wounded by abuse building trust, providing unconditional love, and repeatedly asking for forgiveness in the full recognition that we do not deserve that forgiveness in the order of justice but can only receive it when it is bestowed as gift and grace in the process of healing.”

In an interview with America: The Jesuit Review following Cardinal Tagle’s talk, Dr. Enright said his research has found that survivors of trauma, including sexual abuse, report lower rates of depression when they include forgiveness in their healing process.

“Injustice is a wound,” Dr. Enright said, “but what happens after that wound is ever greater woundedness. The injustice leads to lots of complications, and the basic complication is what I’ve come to call resentment–resentment that can manifest itself years later in depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.

While forgiving the offender can help those suffering from the fallout oftrauma, Dr. Enright cautioned that forgiveness can never be expected from those who experience abuse, merely offered as a choice.

“It is not excusing; it is not forgetting; it is not throwing justice under the bus; it may or may not be reconciling,” he said.

According to Vatican News, the goal of the Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican was “that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response.”

One of the 16 books written by Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila (Philippines).

The 61-year-old Cardinal Tagle has been the Archbishop of Manila  (where he was born) since December 12, 2011, and became a cardinal less than a year later. He has worked with Dr. Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), since the two met at the Jerusalem Conference on Forgiveness, organized by the IFI in July, 2017.

Cardinal Tagle is personally leading  an initiative in the Philippines to establish Forgiveness Education Programs in every Catholic school throughout the country’s more than 7,000 East Asian islands.  Curriculum Guides developed by Dr. Enright for students in pre-k through 12th grade will form the foundation of those programs.

Read the full text of Cardinal Tagle’s presentation – The Smell of the Sheep: Knowing their pain and healing their wounds is at the core of the shepherd’s task.


Learn more:

1) Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness and Forgiveness Education Programs:

2) The Protection of Minors in the Church:

When I forgive, do you think that I can trust the person in certain areas but not in others?

Yes, you can begin to trust someone in certain areas but not in others as you forgive.  As an example, suppose that Person A has a serious gambling problem.  These actions have hurt you.  Yet, the person is a good worker who gets the job done when asked to do so.  If Person A asks for a monetary loan, it would not be in your interest (or in Person A’s interest) to loan the money.  At the same time, if Person A’s work record is strong and you need this person to do a certain job, then relying on Person A to do and finish the job is not unreasonable, given the past behavior.  You can forgive the compulsive gambler for not paying back your loan and, at the same time, not trust the person in the one particular area of finances.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

Would you please explain what you mean by “wishing the person well” in the context of forgiving someone?

When you “wish the other well” you are not necessarily planning to go to the person and proclaim that you have forgiven (at least not yet).  You are not necessarily planning (at least for now) to reconcile with the person.  Instead, you are engaging in a cognitive exercise in which you hope that the one who hurt you does well in life, even if that person is doing well in life without a relationship with you.  For example, you want the person to have a good job.  You hope the person has good health.  The point is this:  Your thoughts about the person are not condemning ones but instead are positive thoughts for the person’s well-being.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

Is it even wise to try to build up trust again when the person already has betrayed that trust?

This will depend on whether or not the other who has hurt you shows what I call in my book, The Forgiving Life, the “three R’s.”  Does this person show remorse (or inner sorrow), repentance (coming to you with a sincere apology), and recompense (trying to make it right, within reason)?  If the three R’s are in place, then you can begin to try to re-establish trust, which can be earned one small step at a time.  See if the person can handle the particular kind of responsibility that did not materialize in the past.  If, in the small steps, the person shows a good will and sound behavior, then you might trust in more substantial ways.  If the person cannot handle finances, but you give the person now a small responsibility with finances and this is handled well, you might consider a little more financial responsibility, and then a little more.  Trust needs to be earned and is often built up slowly.

For additional information, see The Forgiving Life.

I always say that if a person is steeped in negative thinking, even such thinking about other people, then he needs something to disturb him to get him out of his negative thought pattern.  If you agree with this, what is a good disturbing situation in your experience that can jolt a person out of negativism?

I think your expression “something to disturb him” is very interesting.  What you mean, I think, is something to get the person’s attention in a powerful way.  Yes, in my experience I have seen this “jolt” as you call it and it is this: an inner pain that becomes uncomfortable and motivates the person to do something about that pain.  Carrying the weight of continual negative thoughts can lead to an abiding sense of anger that turns to resentment.  The resentment then can turn on the one harboring it.  Resentment can turn to fatigue, restless sleep, a lack of exercise, and a general pessimism about people.  This kind of accumulated pain eventually can “jolt” a person into reality: I must do something about this pain.  It is here that some people come to realize that their negative symptoms point back to being treated unjustly, being angry, then overly angry, and then miserable.  It is at that point that many are willing to consider forgiveness as a fresh response to the original injustice……and to the inner pain that has developed as a result of the injustice.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

About three years ago, I forgave my father for abandoning the family when I was just a child, 6-years-old.  Now that I am grown and the pressure is off of him to parent me, here he comes and asks my forgiveness.  To be honest with you, I think it is too late to hear his point of view.  What do you think?

You have forgiven your father for his abandoning your family and you.  I think you now have another situation in which you might consider forgiving your father for coming to you now, as you say, after the pressure is off for his parenting you.  Forgiveness, as you know, is your choice.  Given that you already have forgiven him for his past behavior, you now know the forgiveness pathway for forgiving him for his current issue.  Please keep in mind that he may have a lot of remorse and guilt.  He may not be asking for your forgiveness only because the pressure now is off.  If you see his possible remorse and even anguish, it may help you in your decision to forgive.

For additional information, see 8 Keys to Forgiveness.