Psychology Article on Forgiveness

To start with, only comment if you read the article! Last time I posted an a thread to discuss an interesting internet article, a lot of people opined without even reading the thing. If you don’t read it, then you can’t have an opinion.

psychologytoday.com/blog/disturbed/201208/why-you-dont-always-have-forgive

For those who didn’t read the article I quoted part of it which seems to make up the crux. Also you should really just read the article.

Though society pressures you to forgive the person who wronged you, the truth is that forgiving may be the worst thing you can do. Many religions and therapies focus on forgiving a perpetrator so that the victim can ‘move on.’ The goal is to make sure that the victim does not become fixated on the hurt. This element is critical because if you become completely obsessed with your victimization, you will not be able to function. That is a fact. Fixating freezes you.

However, forgiveness is not something that just happens. Some people find it helpful to release their anger while others find the idea disgusting. I have dealt with my share of parents of murdered children and victims of sex crimes. Though many find a way to move forward in life, forgiveness truly eludes them. This does not make them bad people. This just means that it is not healing for them at this time.

Now I know this article is about mental health rather than theology, but it does raise some questions about the implications involved.

This thread should be in Moral Theology. My mistake. Please move it there.

I am not sure this really raises any interesting questions. The author states that what some people mean by forgiveness is really, “act like whatever happened to you never actually happened”. Of course that’s wrong. Then she moves on to saying that healing and forgiveness take time. She’s right about that. And for some people, it never truly happens. Pretending like it never happened can certainly be among the worst things to do, but actually forgiving? No.

I read it. The author never backs up her statement that “forgiving may be the worst thing you can do.” What she really means is that “saying you forgive a wrong when you don’t mean it due to outside pressure” may be the worst thing you can do. That is right. If you do that, you are now the victim of three wrongs in which you can wallow in victimhood: (1) the original violation; (2) the perceived judgment of others for lacking forgiveness; and (3) anger at the self for yielding to (2) by making non-genuine forgiveness statements.

In psych terms, this is all ego defense. That doesn’t excuse the wrongs, but saying forgiveness is the worst thing you can do is flat wrong. Even in the mental health sphere. The author is right that non-genuine coerced forgiveness statements are harmful, but the goal is to reach genuine forgiveness.

If you’ll notice in the article, it states that genuine forgiveness isn’t always controllable. The writer of the article isn’t pulling this out of thin air either; she actually worked first-hand with people who were severely wronged (people who were raped and people whose children were murdered) and states that in many cases they can’t find it in themselves to forgive no matter how much they try.

Forgiveness comes from within. It is not something that can be forced. Either you can do it or you can’t. If you cannot, then don’t think that you are a bad person or that you failed in some way. In some cases, forgiveness is just not possible. You may learn not to despise the perpetrator, but saying you forgive can be hollow if that is not what you truly feel.

She also talked about how others actually end up hurting victims by pressuring them to forgive or by telling them that they are bad people for being unable to. Being told that they’ll go to Hell if they don’t forgive, being disowned by their family, having their children taken away from them, etc. This actually happens to victims much more often than you would expect, and if they try and force themselves to forgive they usually end up making themselves worse.

So if forgiveness is obligatory then it would appear that God is asking too much of some people or that he is calling those people to be miserable and unhealthy.

I agree your first statement. Forgiveness is hard, and it can be uncontrollable. But the goal of genuine forgiveness still remains. It can be reached through therapy. But the road can be long. The Kubler-Ross stages apply here. One may reach a stage of acceptance and sublimation by helping others who had similar wrongs, but true freedom from the paralysis of victimhood lies in forgiveness. A lofty goal that, admittedly, might be out of reach without very very mature psych insight or God’s grace, which I say would be the same thing for these folks.

As to the second statement, outside coercion leading to unauthentic forgiveness can be harmful. Which is what the author is really driving at.

Forgiveness is obligatory. But we are all imperfect. These are the difficult situations that forge saints. God is calling in a very specific way to these souls. Psych interventions can only take the patient so far. Reaching true forgiveness in these situations without God’s grace and an understanding of the role of suffering in the spiritual life is unlikely. But an assertion that actual forgiveness in these situations could be harmful is just wrong. I agree with the rest of the article and I think that her statement in that regard was inartfully worded.

Jesus said to the crippled man “Rise, take up your mat, and walk,” and it was so, but the rest of us have no such power to bring about healing, physical or spiritual, in others or even in ourselves. We want to make things right, we want to fix other people when they are broken, but we can’t. They are healed — we are healed — by the grace of God according to his plan.

The author of the article does not mention God or faith or grace, but I think she is correct to say that we do not have control over the healing process, and it may do harm when we pretend that we do.

Thank you for posting this. It really puts things into perspective.

Notice the author of this article makes no reference to empirical studies. Her opinion is bias in favor of validating the victims pain. There are numerous studies that validate the positivity of forgiveness.

This twisted sympathy for the ‘victim’ is an increasing trend …targeting religious.

Many religions and therapies focus on forgiving a perpetrator so that the victim can ‘move on.’

Belittling Christians for victimizing the victims
Religion vs. Empathy

George Soros foundation helps fund this mindset and the undermining of this basic Christian tenet…forgiveness.

This evil mindset is the device that will flip the table for many.

The author advises the victim to get busy and all will be well in the end. Won’t she be in for a surprise at the end game.

It would serve the author well to read Fr. Kelty’s homily - A Bit Much!

bardstown.com/~brchrys/homilies/mk092604.htm

It would serve her well to read it in light of the terrible things she has seen and heard in her lifetime.

The call to forgive is urgent. The pain of division and unforgiving spirit slices deeply through the soul into eternity.
This is the message for the living…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.