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Once upon a time, I began to forgive . . . finally. #ForgivenessFriday

May 17, 2013

I was carrying a grudge for more than three years. I wanted to move forward but couldn’t. (You can read my story here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

Why #ForgivenessFriday? Together, we’re unleashing forgiveness in hearts.

Last year, I read a book that changed everything for me! Three years after my original hurt, I finally began the forgiveness process when I read The Forgiving Life by Robert Enright.

start here

Today, I want you to hear from Dr. Enright who graciously agreed to this interview.

Dr. Enright, you outline 3 discoveries needed to begin the forgiveness process: 1) Identify the person you need to forgive, 2) Identify your injustice, and 3) Identify the impact of each injustice in your life.

1. Isn’t it already obvious whom we need to forgive?

It rarely is obvious whom we need to forgive. For example, when a husband and a wife are consistently angry with each other, frequently there are unresolved anger issues from childhood. The spouses forget this and focus instead only on one another. If they will resolve the anger in their relationship, they may have to first forgive people from long ago who hurt them and left emotional scars.

2. I was personally shocked to discover how helpful it was to identify my specific injustice. Why is this so helpful?

It puts into perspective the exact nature of the offenses against us. It is difficult to forgive people if we are vague about what happened, or even who hurt us (as in question 1 above).

3. Why is identifying the impact of the injustice on our life so important?

We so often “stuff” the pain in over-work or over-drink or over-just-about-anything-else.  We distract ourselves from the pain. When we stop and take stock of all the built-up pain we realize that we have a lot of emotional work to do and forgiveness helps with that.

4. The Forgiveness Landscape in chapter eight is the most detailed approach to forgiveness I have discovered. (You also make these tools available at http://www.mindgarden.com/forgiveness/.) Why is this helpful?

Filling out the Forgiveness Landscape Scale (in the book, The Forgiving Life, or at the Mind Garden site) can be very eye-opening. People are quite surprised when they generate the list of people at whom they still harbor anger, even after many years. This can be an invaluable experience of seeing who hurt us and wiping the resentment-slate clean, and how amazing would that be to be free of resentments that can go back decades.

5. Scripture teaches that we are body, mind, and soul (heart). Our hurts impact our mind and our heart. Should our forgiveness process address both?

Yes, we need to do both, clearly see all the injustices against us and then to assess the psychological impact on us. This is why we have the Personal Forgiveness Scale in the book, The Forgiving Life,—to assess the degree of emotional damage from the injustice as well as the degree of improvement in emotional health following forgiveness.

6. As part of your forgiveness process, you suggest working toward understanding and then compassion toward our offender. Can’t forgiving someone simply be an act between me and God?

God surely can give us the grace to forgive, but if we look to Jesus Christ as our example, He struggled and suffered. When we do that, we mature as persons. Grace is not supposed to make us passive and receptive without maturation. It is the interaction of grace and struggle that brings out the beauty in a person.

7. Since forgiveness is a process, is there any data that predicts how long the process typically lasts?

The data basically show that the forgiveness process varies among people. The process also depends on the seriousness of the offense (the more serious the offense, the longer the process tends to be). Further, the more people are familiar with forgiveness, the more they practice it, the more quickly forgiveness is likely to be realized.

8. Why have you spent so much of your life working on forgiveness?

Because I am a narrow-minded academic…….who loves this stuff.  I have been studying forgiveness for over 28 years now…..and I have not have one boring day in all that time.  

9. Do you believe there are certain injustices that are too horrible to forgive?

No. There are people who will not forgive certain offenses (the murder of a child is one example), but there are no offenses where we cannot find some people who have successfully forgiven. In my first book, Exploring Forgiveness (1998), there is a chapter by Marietta Jaeger in which she beautifully describes her process of forgiving the man who murdered her daughter.

10. Does forgiving become easier?

Forgiveness can become more quickly accomplished with practiced, but I have never seen anyone say it is easy. The cross is never easy.

Click HERE for a copy of Dr. Eright’s insightful book.

If you know of someone wanting to begin the forgiveness process, will you share this with them? Together, let’s unleash forgiveness in the hearts of many.

Dr Enright’s bio:

robert enrightRobert Enright, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, is a licensed psychologist and professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a founding member of the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. in Madison. He is the author of over 120 publications, including five books: Exploring Forgiveness, Helping Clients Forgive, Forgiveness Is a Choice, a children’s book, Rising above the Storm Clouds, and The Forgiving Life. He has been a leader in the scientific study of forgiveness and its effects since 1985. His work on the subject has appeared in Time, McCall’s, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on ABC’s 20/20, NBC’s Nightly News, and many other television and radio shows. He is a recent recipient of the University of Wisconsin’s highest award, The Hilldale Award, focused on excellence in research, teaching, and public service. Currently, Dr. Enright is working on forgiveness education programs for primary school children in Milwaukee’s central-city and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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