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How Forgiveness Benefits Individual, Family, and Community Health
Robert Enright Ph.D.
When we are beaten down by the injustices of life, we can think of ourselves as burned out or irreversibly damaged. Yet, forgiving those who have been cruel can be rejuvenating.
Many people are afraid to forgive or are angry about the idea because they think they must automatically go back into the relationship. Is this the case?
The seven questions here are not an exam which the other passes or fails. Instead, a discussion of them may help you both better understand how you see humanity—and each other.
Suppose someone bullies your family member, but not you. Can you legitimately go ahead and forgive even though you were not the one who was treated unfairly?
Have you been playing the tape in your mind that all people cannot be trusted? Have you turned the generalization onto yourself, thinking that you are less than you truly are?
Our sound-bite culture can lead to false impressions. "Victim shaming" is the latest error, and it is dangerous to the oppressed.
We must make a distinction between recent and long-ago causes of anxiety. Severe injustices from the past, which can cause deep anger, may be a major contributor to that anxiety.
Although forgiveness is one and only one moral virtue, there are at least five different motivations underlying forgiveness when hurt by others.
If it is the case that forgiveness of others can at times be selfish or enabling of others' bad behavior, then such a conclusion could discourage people from forgiving.
Thousands of researchers and therapists now address the crucial issue of forgiving others. What were the developments in this field and where is it headed next?
When treated unfairly by others, people can develop resentment, compromising physical health.
We have to be careful when forgiving that we distinguish between our initial reason for forgiving and what forgiveness actually is. Otherwise, we may misunderstand forgiveness.
You have control over hopelessness because it can be defeated if you do the challenging work of seeing your own and others' built-in worth, work on gratitude, and forgive.
You have control over hopelessness because you can find meaning in your suffering. Hopelessness can be defeated if you embrace one of the meanings discussed in this essay.
Hopelessness is an infection of our times. Letting it keep marching without a challenge is a danger. We begin a 4-part series by examining philosophical ideas that do not uplift.
When treated deeply unfairly by others, you do not have to live with resentment that could destroy you. Unconditional forgiveness is one of the strongest paths to hope and freedom.
How do you coordinate your forgiving and the other's seeking forgiveness? It's not easy, because you may be at different parts of your own process.
Making one particular adjustment in your thinking might go a long way in helping you to like yourself again and to move forward well, despite any relationship set-back.
Why would one want to forgive? After all, the person is no longer here to hurt you. Yet the conflicts of the past can live on in us.
How has forgiveness been weaponized against women? Who else is feeling the effects?
When you are treated unfairly, are you tempted to just "move on"? Do you then say that this action is forgiveness? You might want to take a deeper look at what forgiveness is.
Being humiliated can lead to an anger that can last for months and years. Few writings address this issue or suggest how its effects are neutralized.
Dealing with narcissistic people who offend you can complicate the forgiveness process. Learn how to understand the narcissistic patterns to make forgiving easier.
Your current stresses may have origins in the stresses your great-great-grandparents faced. Is it possible that stresses and their effects are handed down through the generations?
Too often, people are living in the present with the weight of the past inside of them. It not only is unproductive to let this happen but also you can be freed to thrive.
Should people engage in self-forgiveness or is it an illusion or perhaps even inappropriate? Three controversies surrounding self-forgiveness are described and addressed here.
When treated unfairly by others, you might feel offended. A key issue rarely asked is this: In the offense, have I been harmed? If not, this insight may help to reduce resentment.
You must not forgive some people for certain acts! Is this true? Your answer to this question is important because it could aid or hinder healthy development.
Having a struggle forgiving someone? Doing something good for someone who was not good to you may promote emotional healing.
Having all basic needs met does not necessarily lead to transcendent views such as altruism, generosity, and the search for spiritual truth. So what is the way forward?
Robert Enright, Ph.D., is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a licensed psychologist who pioneered the social scientific study of forgiveness.