Christian Counseling: Forgiveness Helps: Part I

Much of what I have written concerning forgiveness is about the morality of it--the rightness of doing it; when to and when not to. This is because I believe there is wide-spread heresy in the romantic and tempting belief that all Christians must forgive everyone for everything, whether or not the offender confesses or repents. (You can find more on this in my blogs and in my in depth article in our site's Shop, "Theologies That Wound: A Study of Biblical Forgiveness.") Therefore, today, I am writing about the "how to" of forgiveness. Here are a few good ideas to help you forgive when it is called for.

Psychologist, forgiveness researcher and author Robert D. Enright, Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers specifics on how to forgive. He writes about the discovery of and working through (not sidestepping) emotions, such as anger and shame. He takes a depth view and asks forgivers to consider how one's history of being offended impacts how one currently is managing an offense and complicates the process. He believes forgiveness is a choice. The further "work" of forgiveness, from his view, includes: building empathy for offender, understanding the impact of offender's early life experiences, seeing the perpetrator as a fellow human being and separating the offense from the offender (that last thought can only be done to a point. It makes sense in that one can see beyond the offense to the good in the person and not take a defensive position called splitting where one classifies an offender as "all bad.")  He also differentiates between forgiveness and reconciliation (Biblically, we are required to forgive a repentant person, but not required to reconcile). He recommends a shift from victim to survivor role by courageously bearing pain (accepting what pain remains after working though it as much as possible). Lastly, Enright suggests writing a compassionate biography of the offender and even giving him or her an emotional or tangible gift.  To these I would add, reacquaint yourself with all that God has forgiven you, as it makes it easier to forgive another. 

Please post a comment about what you struggle with in forgiving another and/or what makes forgiving possible for you. 

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