I am able to do relaxation training and this reduces my stress and anger. Is forgiveness, then, unnecessary for me?

Forgiveness is a moral virtue and need not occur only to aid a person in reducing anger. As a moral virtue, you can forgive as an end in and of itself, because it is good. Also, try to be aware of what happens inside you once you are no longer relaxed. Does the anger well up inside you again? If so, then the practice of forgiveness might be a more permanent solution to your anger than relaxation training by itself.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

My roommate forgave her boyfriend. Yet, she keeps talking about how mean he was to her. Why would she keep talking about it if she has forgiven him?

It is possible that your roommate has forgiven her boyfriend only to a point, but not completely. It seems that she still has residual anger that is bothering her. Also, even if she has forgiven him, she now may be struggling with the issue of reconciliation, or whether or not to continue the relationship. If she is talking about this as a call for help from you, then you might ask what her level of trust is with the boyfriend. See if she is struggling with the issue of reconciliation. It could be that she a) has forgiven, but not deeply yet, in which case she needs more time in the forgiveness process, or b) she is struggling with the issue of whether to reconcile or not.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

I have started the forgiveness process, but I have stopped because it is too painful. Should I go back to this process soon or would time off be more beneficial?

The key is this: When you look within, what do you see regarding your starting again? Do you have any motivation to try or not? If you have no motivation at all, then you need more time. Another question to ask yourself is this: Do I have the virtue of courage to go ahead? Courage can be part of the motivation. Another question is this: Do I have the energy right now to move forward with forgiving? Sometimes we need a rest and this is not dishonorable. As a final question, you might ask yourself this: Do I need to forgive someone else first? If the one you are trying to forgive has been deeply unfair, you might consider first forgiving someone for a lesser offense. You then can get more used to the forgiveness process, build up what I call “the forgiveness muscles” and then try to forgive the one who is more of a challenge.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

I have a friend who keeps lying to herself about her own condition. She has stolen money from her company, but insists that they have enough so that they will never miss it. She has created an alternative reality in her own mind. How do I help her?

The psychological defenses of rationalization and denial can be so strong as to block the truth from the person. Yet, the psychological defenses are not necessarily so strong as to keep the truth away indefinitely. Over time, a sense of guilt may creep into her story. Try to be aware of these even slightly open doors. It is at the time of even a little doubt in her mind that you can discuss what is true about stealing and what is false. Eventually, if she becomes aware, even a little, of her guilt, then you can begin a conversation about seeking forgiveness and making reparation for the theft.

To learn more, see Why Forgiveness Is Not Only a Psychological Construct.

I am in the process of forgiving, but I am finding no stress-relief. Does this mean that I have not forgiven?

Forgiveness is a process that takes time. I have worked with people who definitely understand the process of forgiveness, practice it daily, and yet they still can have anger for up to a year or more. Does your anger or sadness diminish even a little? Try to be aware of these even small victories. Aristotle said that practice and then more practice is necessary to grow in greater maturity in the moral virtues. I find that this is particularly true of forgiveness because it is in the context of being hurt by others. I recommend that you be gentle with yourself, patient in the process of forgiveness, and never give up on the practice of forgiving. The dividends of stress-relief usually then come. You may not be free of all anger in the coming years, but it likely will diminish to manageable levels for you.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

Is it possible to live with unforgiveness and still be happy? My husband abandoned me three years ago. It was totally unexpected.

There is a difference between deliberately deciding to “live with unforgiveness” and trying to forgive, but finding it difficult. Also, there is a difference between “living with unforgiveness” for small offenses against you and deeply unjust offenses against you. If you decide to deliberately be unforgiving under your particular circumstance of abandonment, then it is my opinion that your happiness will be compromised and this could continue for the rest of your life. Under circumstances such as yours, forgiving your husband for this deep injustice could set you free to feel a happiness you might not have felt for these past three years. Decisions to forgive or not to forgive, in other words, can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Yet, you do not want to force the process of forgiveness. When you feel ready, you might consider trying to forgive.

To learn more, read a study demonstrating that Forgiveness Therapy holds promise as a post relationship, post crisis therapeutic approach for women who have experienced spousal emotional abuse.

How can someone become vulnerable enough to accept the pain caused by another person and to ask for help when needed so that forgiveness becomes possible?

I think the key to this is humility. We have to practice the virtue of humility if we are to admit to ourselves the depth of our pain, to accept that we are hurt, and then to bear that pain. It also takes humility for us to realize that we need help. Asking for help is not dishonorable. We do this when we need medical treatment for a broken bone, for example. Humility, it seems to me, is not emphasized enough in our “get tough” society. Assertiveness has its place, but it is not the only response to moral injury. Humility has a rightful place in accepting one’s suffering, seeking help, and starting the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?