Forgiveness Factor: Basics of Forgiveness (Part 1)I want to take a deeper look at what forgiveness is (and is not) to help us better understand how and why to forgive.
Let's start with the definition Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, uses in his book, "Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope."
"When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts."
When unjustly hurt by another . . .
Even the first words of the definition can cause some trouble. We can look back and see where someone treated us in a way we didn't like or appreciate, but was it unjust? Let's pretend my child lies to me. I respond by sending her to her room for an hour. I decide to show mercy and tell her she can come out after 30 minutes. We begin talking about how lying can hurt people and is not the way I expect her to act. She responds with "I understand Daddy and I forgive you for sending me to my room." Wait a minute.
Was I unjust? No. So now we have to have a discussion about forgiveness.
As I look back over the hurts in my life, I need to understand when I was treated unjustly and not only in a way I didn't like. If my coworker doesn't say "good morning" every day and I don't like it because I consider it polite to acknowledge people, do I really need to be hurt? Is it unjust, especially if he doesn't say "good morning" to anyone?
As an adult I also have the capacity to step back and see how I might have influenced the interaction. There are many times that I have been hurt unjustly, but also many times I have (over)reacted unjustly and hurt others in the process. When we begin to look at how we have been hurt by others, we will probably unearth ways we have hurt others. In learning to forgive, we will need to also learn how to seek forgiveness.
But most times, we can spot the injustice.
In the course of teaching forgiveness, I have heard many accounts of injustice. Sometimes, the person is afraid to name the action as "unjust." They feel they deserved it (no!), or that it was acceptable behavior--back then (no!), or it was the addiction and so I can't hold the person responsible (no!). Some of us will continue to make excuses for the people who hurt us. Sometimes we don't want to believe someone who was supposed to love us, could betray us and hurt us. Sometimes we have decided that to feel hurt is to be weak and we refuse to be weak. Sometimes the pain is so great, we refuse to face it; like when we need to identify the reality that what we consider to be a "hard childhood" was really a traumatic, life changing experience that we need to heal from.
The good news is that once we are able to sort through our pains--which ones I need to deal with and others that have not affected me, which ones I had a role in and can take responsibility, which ones hurt and changed me; then I can begin to choose how to deal with the injustice instead of continuing to run, hide, pretend . . etc. When I can see that I have been unjustly hurt by another, this is when "forgiveness" can begin to be considered as a real way to deal with our pain.
A Little Something Extra
If you are looking for a place to dig into forgiveness, ask Dr. Enright a question, become part of the "Drive For Others' Lives" campaign, read a cool blog, or see what books Dr. Enright has written, please check out the International Forgiveness Institute at https://internationalforgiveness.com/.
If you would like to subscribe to the Forgiveness Factor Community and receive weekly Forgiveness Boosts, please go to https://mailchi.mp/b441e8770b36/forgivenessfactorcommunity