Understanding forgiveness

What is forgiveness?

“Trying to distance yourself from the transgressor and especially trying to retaliate ultimately makes you unhappy, damages and destroys relationships and may even harm society at large” (Lyubomirsky). So what is the alternative? What can make me happy and what can improve my relationships?

Forgiveness is not reconciliation, pardoning, condoning, justifying, minimizing, tolerating, excusing, or denying. Forgiveness “involves contemplating the injury at some length” and coming to terms with the injury, abuse, betrayal or offense. Forgiveness also involves a shift of thinking. Forgiveness is what you do for yourself and not for the person who has wronged you (Lyubomirsky).

How to forgive?

  • Appreciate being forgiven
  • Meditate on forgiveness
  • Practice forgiving thoughts
  • Practice empathy
  • Write a letter of forgiveness
  • Write the letter you’d like to receive
  • Contact the person who wronged you
  • Make forgiveness a habit, like you would a prayer
  • Ask for help (i.e. talk to others who practice forgiveness and/or ask God for help)

See http://www.forgivenessday.org/heroes.php for examples of forgiveness.

Look up forgiveness researchers:

  • Michael McCullough and Everett Worthington
  • Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet

Research on the science of forgiveness:

Forgiveness assessment (take before and after completing activity/letters):

Forgiveness resources (books):

  • McCullough, M.E., Pargament, K.I., &Thoresen, C.E., Forgiveness: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: The Guildford Press.
  • Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness is a choice, A step-by-step process for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: APA Life Tools.
  • Worthington, E.L. Jr. (1998). Dimensions of forgiveness: Psychological research & theological perspectives. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.
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