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.

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?

I don’t need to forgive.  I have put the person out of my life.  I have moved on.  That person can have a miserable life now as far as I am concerned.  In fact, this person would deserve misery.  I don’t really have a question, just this statement that one simply can move on without forgiving.

Thank you for your note.  While “moving on” certainly is possible when the injustice is not serious, I have found that people have a very hard time “just moving on” when deeply hurt by others.  In your case, may I challenge you a bit?  I do not think that you are “moving on” without resentment in your heart toward the person.  I say this because of your statement, “In fact, this person would deserve misery.”  This suggests to me that you still are angry.  This kind of anger can stay with a person for a very long time.  “Moving on” is not a cure for such anger.  Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a cure for it.  If and when you are ready to consider forgiveness in this case, your forgiving the person may help you reduce this feeling of resentment.

For additional information, see The Personal, Global, and Cosmic Perspectives.

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 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.

Is there any advantage in forgiving and reconciling compared with forgiving and not reconciling? If I forgive but do not reconcile, will this weaken my ability to forgive in the future?

There is no general rule regarding forgiving and not reconciling. In other words, your not reconciling with someone who is not remorseful or who is unrepentant (when acting very unjustly against you) should not weaken your ability to forgive in the future. In contrast, if you refuse to reconcile with someone who in fact has remorse, has repented and, where possible, has given recompense, then you need to examine your own inner world. Perhaps you have excessive mistrust or resentment and these can get in the way of future forgiving.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

The self-help literature seems to emphasize emotional healing once one forgives. My question is this: How can I use my own journey of forgiving to benefit others?

We have to make a distinction between what forgiveness is and one important consequence of forgiving, namely being healed of powerfully negative emotions. When we forgive, we offer goodness toward the one who hurt us. The paradox is that we as the forgivers, then, can experience emotional relief. Yet, that is not the end of the story. As you forgive, you begin to know the pathway of forgiveness and now can help others, such as family members, think about and practice forgiving. Your experience might prove to be valuable to those who are new to the process of forgiving.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

Can I forgive someone who has not directly hurt me? For example, I am a teacher and one of my students was deliberately hurt by another student. Can I forgive the one who acted badly to a student whom I admire for his honesty and perseverance?

You describe a situation which some philosophers call secondary forgiveness. In other words, you have been hurt indirectly rather than directly by a person’s injustice toward someone who is important to you. Whenever an injustice occurs which hurts you, then you are free to forgive. This can occur even when you do not know the victim(s) but experience hurt nonetheless. An example of this tertiary forgiveness is this: the leader of your country enters into what you consider to be an unjust war with another country. You can forgive the leader if that is your choice to do so.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.