Forgiveness: The Key to Freedom And Healing

Forgiving others is like pulling a band aid off the hairy part of your arm. You know it’s going to hurt.  It simply becomes a matter of when and how to do it. From slow peelers to quick strippers, there’s no sure way to escape the pain.  For those unable or unwilling to forgive there will inevitably be a crisis, and a crisis to long continued can become a way of life.

Forgiveness Quotes: 
Forgiveness is love in its most noble form.
He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass. George Herbert

"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names."John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"To err is human; to forgive, divine."Alexander Pope.

Forgiveness is a process (or the result of a process) that involves a change in emotion and attitude regarding an offender. Most scholars view this as an intentional and voluntary process, driven by a deliberate decision to forgive. This process results in decreased motivation to retaliate or maintain estrangement from an offender despite their actions, and requires letting go of negative emotions toward the offender.

Theorists differ in the extent to which they believe forgiveness also implies replacing the negative emotions with positive attitudes including compassion and benevolence. In any event, forgiveness occurs with the victim’s full recognition that he or she deserved better treatment, one reason why Mahatma Gandhi contended that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”.

Read 'Can I Forgive My Enemy' here

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: 
Some theorists view reconciliation, or the restoration of a relationship, as an integral part of the forgiveness process, and others as independent processes because forgiveness may occur in the absence of reconciliation and reconciliation may occur in the absence of forgiveness. 

Nonetheless, forgiveness does have behavioral corollaries. Reductions in revenge and avoidance motivations and an increased ability to wish the offender well are features of forgiveness that can impact upon behavioral intention without obliging reconciliation. Forgiveness can be a one sided process, whereas reconciliation is a mutual process of increasing acceptance.

Forgiveness and Other Processes: 
Forgiveness is recognized as different from other processes, such as condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the person or group responsible for the action), pardoning (granted only by a representative of society, such as a judge), and forgetting (removing awareness of the offence from consciousness; to forgive is more than just not thinking about the offence). Many of the concepts that scholars keep different are treated as the same in lay conceptions of forgiveness.

Benefits of Forgiveness: 
It aids psychological healing through positive changes in affect
  • It improves physical and mental health
  • It restores a victim’s sense of personal power
  • It helps bring about reconciliation between the offended and offender
  • It lowered blood pressure
  • It boost the Immune system
  • It promotes hope for the resolution of real-world intergroup conflicts
  • It restored relationship

Forgiveness Interventions: 
There are a large number of interventions designed to improve individuals’ abilities to forgive, both at the interpersonal level (e.g., distressed couples, incest survivors, victims of parental abuse), and at the group level (human rights abuses, intergroup conflict and war). 

Interventions that promote understanding the roots of violence can foster reconciliation and forgiveness after mass violence and after individual harmdoing). Results from experiments tracking the outcome of forgiveness interventions show that interventions:
• leads to improved affect
• lowers rate of psychiatric illness
• lowers physiological stress responses; thereby improving physical well-being
and leading to a greater sense of personal control
• facilitates the restoration of relationship closeness

Forgiveness and Conflict Resolution in Marriage: 
Forgiveness usually occurs within a relational context and the nature of the relationship (e.g., closeness, quality) is related to forgiveness. Paradoxically, those we love are often the ones we are most likely to hurt. 

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When interpersonal transgressions occur in such relationships they can elicit strong negative feelings and have the potential to disrupt the relationship. Perhaps not
surprisingly, spouses report that the capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most important factors contributing to marital longevity and marital satisfaction. 

Our research program attempts to document how forgiveness impacts marriage and family based on the dual premises that (a) the family is the primary arena in which one learns to forgive and (b) forgiveness can be critical to sustaining healthy family relationships.

Forgiveness and Conflict: 
Conflict resolution is integral to a successful relationship and resentment engendered by partner transgressions is likely to fuel couple conflict and impede successful conflict resolution. 

In contrast, forgiving the partner for the transgression is one potential means of providing closure with regard to a painful or disturbing relationship event. Forgiveness may therefore have substantial implications for long-term relationship outcomes as well as short term patterns of interaction.

Forgiveness is Not the Absence of Unforgiveness
Most research examines forgiveness in terms of decreased negative motivation, or unforgiveness (e.g., revenge, avoidance) toward the transgressor. Although decreasing unforgiveness is undeniably important, a benevolent motivational state toward the harm-doer that is not achieved simply by overcoming negative motivation is fundamental to forgiveness.
Just as health is not the absence of illness, forgiveness is not the absence of unforgiveness.

Gender Related Differences: 
It appears that wives’ forgiveness of husband transgressions is particularly important for conflict resolution in marriage both in the short term and over time. In contrast it is husbands’ overcoming of unforgiveness that facilitates conflict resolution, at least in the short term. 

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It is likely that these findings reflect gender differences in response to intimate partner conflict. Women are less likely to avoid and more likely to engage problematic areas in need of discussion than are men. In this context, factors that increase husband withdrawal, such as unforgiveness, might be particularly likely to fuel a destructive demand-withdraw cycle, leading to increased reports by wives of ineffective arguing.

Forgiveness Therapy: 
Forgiveness therapy is described by a number of clinicians and researchers as a promising new approach to anger-reduction and the restoration of emotional health (Enright & Fitzgibbons). At the University of Wisconsin- Madison, the forgiveness process model, encompasses four phases: Uncovering, Decision, Work, and Deepening (Enright, 2001; Enright & Human Development Study Group, 1996). 

In the Uncovering phase, the individual identifies the psychological injury he or she experienced and recognizes his or her own subsequent anger, shame, and possibly distorted thinking. In the Decision phase, the person makes the attempt to more deeply understand what forgiveness is and is not. He or she then makes a conscious commitment to forgive the offender.

You can read here ''3 Steps I Took to Activate Forgiveness in My Life'' 

In the Work phase, the person strives to understand the wrongdoer’s perspective and may develop compassion and empathy toward that offender. By relinquishing anger as a psychological defense, the individual chooses to fully experience his or her own pain. With this bearing of the pain, the forgiver may develop a sense of generosity toward the offending person. 

In the Deepening phase, the one who forgives acknowledges human vulnerability by reflecting on his or her own past offenses. He or she may begin to find new meaning in what happened, making deeper sense out of the experience. By finding positive meaning in events previously viewed as mostly negative, the forgiver releases resentment and may find a new life purpose. This allows for the possibility of healthy emotional regulation and a re-examination of self as more than just a victim.

Nine Steps to Forgiveness: 
1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.

2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.

3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”

4. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years– ago.

5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.

6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.

8. Remember that a life well lived is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.

9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

Forgiveness as Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Processes: 
In the forgiveness literature, there is a debate concerning whether forgiveness is an interpersonal process (to re-establish the relationship) or intrapersonal process (to make the self feel better). 

My studies have addressed this difference from the perspective of the perpetrator. I explored the possibility that forgiveness-seeking is both inter- and intra-personal, and that the order in which these occur depends on features of the perpetrator such as personality.
Intra-personal forgiveness occurs when a perpetrator seeks forgiveness from the victim in order to reconcile the relationship and/or help the victim to feel better. 

Intra-personal forgiveness (or more simply, self forgiveness) occurs when the perpetrator turns inwards to come to terms with the negativity he/she is feeling, and in no way involves the victim.

This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well. Francis Bacon.

More Forgiveness Quotes:

They who forgive most shall be most forgiven. Josiah Bailey

Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge. Isaac Friedmann

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. If we practice and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless. Mahatma Gandhi.

Everyone says that forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.C.S. Lewis

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Forgiveness and Personality: 
My research has shown that forgiveness-seeking depends on the severity of the act and on the perpetrator’s personality (comparing introverts and extraverts). When an offending act was severe, most Summary of Findings Concerns that motivate a perpetrator to seek forgiveness include: Damaged self-worth, justice, impression management, the victim and others, the relationship, religion/God.

Forgiveness-seeking behaviors can be grouped into 4 categories: Approach, Avoidance, Denial and Hiding, and Groveling. The concerns that motivate a perpetrator to seek forgiveness and the forgiveness-seeking behaviors a perpetrator uses depend on the severity of the transgression and the amount of time that has passed since the transgression.

Perpetrators followed a similar sequence of forgiveness-seeking – they first reflected and sought to gain self forgiveness before they asked forgiveness from others, and this was true for both introverts and extraverts. 

However, in low and moderate guilt/severity situations, extraverts were more likely to immediately seek forgiveness from their victim (interpersonal forgiveness seeking) while introverts were more likely to first turn inwards to try and soothe the self and forgive the self (intrapersonal forgiveness-seeking) before seeking forgiveness from others. 

The next step of the research is to explore the reasons why both turn inward in high severity situations, and also, whether or not both types of forgiveness-seeking are required for resolution. It may be that once extraverted perpetrators receive forgiveness from their victims, they are able to move on from the situation and do not need to seek forgiveness from themselves.

What Factors Motivate Forgiveness Seeking? 
Why do perpetrators ask forgiveness? There are a number of reasons that may be of importance, including avoiding punishment, atoning for earlier actions, improving the lot of the victim, and responding to moral or ethical concerns. 

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To explore these reasons, we developed a forgiveness seeking questionnaire that asks about perpetrators’ concerns that underlie the motivation for asking for forgiveness. Preliminary results have shown that there exist 6 major areas of concern for a perpetrator once he/she has transgressed: Damaged self worth, justice, impression management, the victim and others (friends and family), the relationship with the victim, and God. 

In addition, preliminary results also show that a perpetrator’s concerns vary depending on the severity of the situation (we have assessed low, moderate and high severity
transgressions). In addition a perpetrator’s concerns immediately following the transgression are often quite different than concerns in the longer term (in order to eventually move on from the situation).

How Do Perpetrators Ask for Forgiveness? 
We have also examined what behaviors perpetrators use in order to seek forgiveness. Results have shown the existence of four categories of forgiveness seeking behaviors that we have termed: Approach behaviors (e.g. calling the victim), avoidance behaviors (e.g. giving the victim some space), denying and hiding behaviors (e.g. blaming someone else), and groveling behaviors (e.g. doing whatever it takes for however long it takes). 

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Doyin Okupe prostrating, begging former president Obasanjo.
(picture by premium time)

As with the concerns, preliminary results show that the forgiveness-seeking behaviors a perpetrator engages in after a transgression vary depending on the severity of the situation and the time frame (immediately following the transgression or in the longer term).
The very recent rise in forgiveness-seeking literature is uplifting because by understanding why perpetrators do, or do not seek forgiveness, it may be possible to promote the behavior, and in doing so, perhaps facilitate the process of granting forgiveness.

Psychological theories about forgiveness: 
Only in the last few decades has forgiveness received attention from psychologists and social psychologists. Psychological papers and books on the subject did not begin to appear until the 1980’s. Prior to that time it was a practice primarily left to matters of faith. 

Although there is presently no consensual psychological definition of forgiveness in the research literature, a consensus has emerged that forgiveness is a process and a number of models describing the process of forgiveness have been published.

Dr. Robert Enright from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is regarded to have placed forgiveness on the map. He founded the International Forgiveness Institute and is considered the initiator of forgiveness studies. Dr. Enright developed a 20-Step Process Model of Forgiveness.
Enright’s Process Model of Forgiveness
Units Cognitive, Behavioral, and Affective Phases

Uncovering Phase

1. Examination of psychological defenses

2. Confrontation of anger; the point is to release, not harbor the anger

3. Admittance of shame, when this is appropriate

4. Awareness of cathexis

5. Awareness of cognitive rehearsal of the offense

6. Insight that the injured party may be comparing oneself with the injurer

7. Realization that oneself may be permanently and adversely changed by the injury

8. Insight into a possible altered “just world” view

Decision Phase 

9. A change of heart/conversion/new insights that old resolution strategies are not working

10. Willingness to consider forgiveness as an option

11. Commitment to forgive the offender

Work Phase

12. Reframing, through role taking, of who the wrongdoer is by viewing him or her in context

13. Empathy and compassion toward the offender

14. Acceptance/absorption of the pain

Deepening Phase
15. Giving a moral gift to the offender

16. Finding meaning for oneself and others in the suffering and in the forgiveness process

17. Realization that oneself has needed others’ forgiveness in the past

18. Insight that one is not alone

19. Realization that oneself may have a new purpose in life because of the injury

20. Awareness of decreased negative affect, and, perhaps, increased positive affect, if this begins to emerge, toward the injurer; awareness of internal, emotional release.

Dr. Everett Worthington, a known lecturer and author on the subject of forgiveness has developed the Pyramid Model of Forgiveness. This model involves: recall the hurt; empathize; altruistic gift of forgiveness; commit to forgive; holding onto forgiveness.Recall the Hurt. When we are hurt, we often try to protect ourselves by denying our hurt. We think, often correctly, that if we don't think about it, it won't bother us. 

But if unforgiveness keeps intruding into your happiness or gnawing ulcers in your gut, consider forgiving. Recall the hurt as objectively as possible. Don't rail against the person who hurt you, waste time wishing for an apology that will never be offered, or dwell on your victimization. Instead, admit that a wrong was done to you and set your sights on its repair.

Empathize. Empathy involves seeing things from another person's point of view, feeling that person's feelings, and identifying with the pressures that made the person hurt you. To empathize with your offender's experience, write a brief letter to yourself as if you were the other person. How would he or she explain the harmful acts?

Altruistic gift of forgiveness. Empathy can prepare you for forgiving, but to give that gift of forgiveness, consider yourself. Have you ever harmed or offended a friend, a parent, or a partner who later forgave you? Think about your guilt. Then consider the way you felt when you were forgiven. Most people say, "I felt free. The chains were broken." Forgiveness can unshackle people from their interpersonal guilt. By recalling your own guilt and the gratitude over being forgiven, you can develop the desire to give that gift of freedom to the person who hurt you.

Commit to forgive. When you forgive, you can eventually doubt that you have forgiven. When people remember a previous injury or offense, they often interpret it as evidence that they must not have forgiven. If you make your forgiveness tangible, you are less likely to doubt it later. Tell a friend, partner, or counselor that you have forgiven the person who hurt you. Write a "certificate of forgiveness," stating that you have, as of today, forgiven.

Holding onto forgiveness. When you have doubts about whether you have forgiven, remind yourself of the Pyramid, refer to your certificate of forgiveness, and tell yourself that a painful memory does not disqualify the hard work of forgiveness that you have done. Instead of trying to stop thoughts of unforgiveness, think positively about the forgiveness you have experienced. 

If you continue to doubt your forgiveness, work back through the Pyramid.
Dr. Guy Pettitt of New Zealand, provides a comprehensive set of materials on both the need and benefits of forgiveness as well as the process to accomplish forgiveness.

Summary of differing views on forgiveness: The differing views on forgiveness can be delineated on the basis of whether one believes forgiveness must be earned as opposed to regarding it as a gift.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, forgiveness to be earned would be considered only properly exercised if forgiveness is requested or earned through means such as atonement, amends, restitution or sincere apology. Such forgiveness often requires some sort of promise that the offending act or behavior will not be repeated. 

Forgiveness under these circumstances would remain conditioned upon the actions or words of the perceived wrongdoer. Certain religious views of forgiveness would fall under this category, especially when considering receiving forgiveness from one’s God. 

An example of this would be penance practiced by Catholics and certain other Christian denominations and similar practices by other religions. Such religious concepts may have a spillover effect towards one’s views on what is necessary for interpersonal forgiveness, even though most religions encourage interpersonal forgiveness without a requirement of it being earned as the religious sections above illustrate.

Viewing forgiveness as a gift would hold that forgiveness begins with a decision the forgiver makes to let go of resentment held in the forgiver's mind of a perceived wrong or difference, either actual or imagined. As the choice of forgiveness is made in the mind of the forgiver, it can be made about any resentment, whether toward another, oneself, a group, a situation or even one's God. Under this view, forgiveness of another can be granted with or without the other asking for forgiveness.

When forgiveness is viewed as a gift the forgiver gives to oneself and/or the perceived wrongdoer to free their respective minds of resentment and guilt. Such forgiveness does not require repentance, contrition or any other form of "payment" from the forgiven.
The act of forgiveness has merit in and of itself and can stand alone without condition and therefore outside control of the perceived wrongdoer’s behavior. 

As a gift to oneself forgiveness allows the person granting forgiveness the opportunity to overcome some hurt or emotional turmoil by offering closure and the ability to move on from the perceived situation or circumstance that merited an act of forgiveness.
Forgiveness of this nature is sometimes referred to as a selective remembering, whereby one focuses only upon love or loving thoughts and lets go of negative thoughts. 

Others hold that the act of forgiveness is less of a recognition of, or letting go of error, than it is an act of the recognition of the overriding good in another, thereby enabling both the one who would forgive and the one who would be forgiven, to actualize their greatest good.
Forgiveness is often associated with religious or spiritual teachings. 

However, religious or spiritual motivation or beliefs is not necessary for forgiveness. Forgiveness can be motivated by love, philosophy, appreciation for the forgiveness of others, empathy, personal temperament or pragmatism, including fear, obligation, appearances, harmony, or release.

Health aspects of forgiveness: 
Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. One study has shown that the positive benefit of forgiveness is similar whether it was based upon religious or secular counseling as opposed to a control group that received no forgiveness counseling.

Story of Forgiveness: 
The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. 

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Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, "This is for you, Daddy."
The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. 

He yelled at her, stating, "Don't you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? 

The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, "Oh, Daddy, it's not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They're all for you, Daddy."
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness.

Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each one of us, as humans beings, have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses... from our children, family members, friends, and God. There is simply no other possession anyone could hold that is more precious than this."

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Forgiveness: The Key to Freedom And Healing Forgiveness: The Key to Freedom And Healing Reviewed by E.A Olatoye on January 05, 2022 Rating: 5

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