If I forgive, will all of the pain in my heart be gone?

The science of forgiveness suggests that the pain becomes considerably more bearable upon forgiving people for serious injustices. As the late Lewis Smedes used to say, forgiveness is for imperfect people. Thus, we do not necessarily get rid of all anger or all sadness upon forgiving. Yet, as I have heard from one person, “Anger used to control me, but now I am in control of my anger.” Forgiveness is what led to this triumph.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

What is the appeal of anger that it can become a habit, almost an addiction? Can suppressed or passive anger become like that, too?

I think the appeal is the adrenaline rush, the feeling of being wide awake and in control, the feeling that others will not take advantage of me.  All of this is reasonable if it is within reasonable bounds.  By that I mean that the anger is not controlling you, which can happen as people fly out of control with a temper that then is hard to manage.

A habit of anger, when intense, is hard to break, but it can be done with a strong will, the practice of forgiveness, and an awareness of how the anger-habit has compromised one’s life.  Passive anger can be habit-forming as well and that is a more difficult habit to break if the person is unaware of it.  Insights of unhappiness or of reduced energy can be clues to people that they are harboring passive anger in need of healing.

Forgiving others for injustices that have fostered this kind of anger is an important step in curing the anger.

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

Can We Get Anti-Bullying Programs to Work?

In an August 13, 2019 essay at mercatornet.com, author Izzy Kalman states that the anti-bullying movement is doomed to failure. This is the case because, in his words: “The goal of the anti-bullying movement is to convince us all to stop bullying or tolerating bullying. Unfortunately, the message falls on deaf ears because hardly anyone believes that they are bullies.”

In other words, those who bully are in denial and so attempts to convince them to change are futile. We are more hopeful of successful attempts at reducing bullying because of our approach, which, as far as we can tell, is unique.

Sometimes some students are so emotionally wounded that their anger overwhelms the attempt at consciousness-raising.  The students are so very wounded that they cannot listen well.  Some are so wounded that they refuse to listen.  Even others are so mortally wounded that they find a certain pleasure in inflicting pain on others.  It is when it gets to that point—others’ pain equals pleasure for the one inflicting it—that we have a stubborn problem on our hands.  No signs, no consciousness-raising, no rally in the gym, no pressure to be good is going to work…..because the gravely wounded student is now beyond listening.

Yet, we have found a hidden way to reverse the trend in those who are so hurting that they derive pain from hurting others.  It is this:  Ask the hurting students, those labeled so often as bullies, to tell their story of pain, their story of how others have abused them.

You will see this as the rule rather than the exception:

Those who inflict pain over and over have stories of abuse toward them that would make you weep.  In fact, we have seen the weeping come from the one who has bullied others, the one who has inflicted serious pain onto others. He wept because, as he put it, “No one ever asked me for my story before.”  His story was one of cruel child abuse from an alcoholic father who bruised him until he bled.  And no one ever asked him about this.  And so he struck out at others.  Once he told his story, he began to forgive his father and his pain lessened and thus his need to inflict pain on others slowly melted away.

This is what our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program does.  It aids counselors and teachers in bringing out the stories in the pain-inflictors so that their own pain dramatically decreases.  As this happens, through forgiveness, bullying behavior is rendered powerless……because in examining their own hurt they finally realize how much hurt they have inflicted…..and with their own emotional pain gone, they have no desire to live life like this any more.

Come, take our anti-bullying curriculum and save the life of at least one child and help prevent inflicted pain on countless others.

Robert

EDITOR’S NOTE: For a limited time only, the International Forgiveness Institute is offering Dr. Enright’s Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program as a free gift to counselors, schools, and families. Click here to order.


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My cousin says that she forgives me for something I did about a year ago, but when I am around her she seems like she has an attitude toward me now. I think she has not forgiven me. Should I bring this up to her or just let it go?

It seems that you already have been patient, waiting for her to reduce the resentment, but it is not happening. It is time to first forgive her for her unforgiveness and then gently approach her about it. It seems that she still has work to do to completely forgive you. You might want to ask her to forgive you and then wait patiently for her to accomplish the task.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

On page 217 of your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you say this, ‘Harboring resentment makes us suffer even more than did the original injury.’ Would you please clarify what you mean?

Resentment can make us bitter, tired, pessimistic, and unhealthy if it is deep and if it lasts for years and years. Resentment like this is a slow killer and can rob us of our happiness. An original injustice can be severely challenging, but with a right response to it, will not destroy our happiness for the rest of our lives.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

I am worried that if my anger diminishes upon forgiving, then I will lose my edge to fight for justice. After all, anger can be a motivator to fight fairly for justice.

It seems to me that anger is not the primary motive for seeking justice. Instead, the primary motivator is the conviction that the other(s) acted unfairly. This knowledge can lead to the decision that change must occur. This conviction (the other was unfair) and decision (I need to act) can be the primary motivators for seeking a fair solution. While anger may be part of that, we have to be careful in placing anger too high in this motivation list. Why? It is because anger, if intense and long-lasting, can lead to irrational (unhelpful) thinking (examples: “The other is completely evil.” “I must seek revenge for what happened to me.”). When anger that is extreme is lessened, then we have greater cognitive clarity and even more energy to fight fairly for justice and to persevere in the pursuit of that justice.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I can be rather rude sometimes and I do not like that at all. How can I find the true origins of my anger?

In my book, The Forgiving Life, I have an exercise called The Forgiveness Landscape. In this exercise, I ask you to take a paper and pencil and begin writing down the hurtful injustices against you: from your earliest childhood memory, to later childhood experiences of injustice, then into adolescence, early adulthood, and up to the present time. I then ask you to rate the hurtfulness of these experiences. Next, you order these unjust experiences from the least hurtful experience (yet, still significant because you have identified it) to the most hurtful experience at the top of the page. That most hurtful experience at the top, if it still is causing you considerable pain, may be the primary source of your current anger. The key is to start at the bottom, where you still may have some hurt, and forgive that particular person. Move up the list, forgiving the people as you go. When you reach the top, you already will have practice in forgiving and so you may be ready to forgive this particular person, even though it is hard to do. This may lessen your anger so that you are not displacing it onto others.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.