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Why Should You Forgive? Dispelling Myths Of Forgiveness

Why Should You Forgive? Dispelling Myths Of Forgiveness
Why Should You Forgive? Dispelling Myths Of Forgiveness
Why Should You Forgive? Dispelling Myths Of Forgiveness

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to clarify misconceptions and dispel myths of forgiveness.

First a quick update:

The Breakup Test
Are you heartbroken, angry, lost, lonely, confused, depressed, hung up, or pining over your ex? Do you know how your ex is truly affecting you and do you want to benefit from personalize advice, action steps and revelations? Take my free breakup test and get your own personalized report. 

The 6 Love Languages. Yes 6! What is Yours?
Love is an expression and therefore it has a language – a form of communicating and expressing. Each one of us feels love and feels loved in different ways. If your partner doesn’t speak your love language, you won’t feel loved. Watch the video 

Now, let’s talk about clarifying misconceptions and dispel myths of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is effective because it removes all negative emotions and potentially replaces them with neutral emotions, positive emotions or pro-social behavior. Forgiveness sets you free from the pain and poison of negative emotions or negative behavior such as isolation, defensiveness, refusal to trust or be vulnerable, or the paralysis of not connecting with others or committing to a relationship.

We can choose to forgive someone for a specific transgression or we can choose to forgive someone for a character trait or disposition. For example, you might choose to forgive someone for being late, which resulted in missing out on seeing a particular movie or show. That would be forgiveness for a specific action. However, that would be different to forgiving someone for constantly being needy or obsessive. The former example might be a one-off situation and the latter might be a character trait or disposition.

If forgiveness results in the neutralization or the removal of negative emotions, then a distinction must also be made between forgiving oneself and forgiving someone else. If you believe you’ve done something wrong then you will probably feel the emotions of regret, remorse, guilt, embarrassment or even shame. However, if you believe that someone else has wronged you, then the emotions you experience might be resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger, vengeance, fear, mistrust, contempt, and so forth.

Again it is critical to understand (as mentioned in other articles I have written) that forgiveness does not involve condoning, approving, excusing or justifying the wrong doing.

Forgiveness cannot occur until it is first agreed and accepted that the wrong has occurred.

Forgiveness does not also involve saying the words, “I forgive you”, nor does it involve reconciliation or the reparation of a relationship. You can forgive someone that is now dead or no longer in your life without ever speaking to him/her or without trying to reconcile or start up another relationship with him/her.

Does forgiveness automatically imply or involve having positive feelings towards the offender?

No, it does not.

The experience of or the choice to have positive feelings towards the offender depends on the relationship:

Is the offender a stranger such as a criminal perpetrator? Is the offender someone whom is an acquaintance or a forced relationship such as a work colleague or boss? Is the offender an ex-partner or ex-spouse, someone whom you possibly don’t even have contact with anymore? Or is the offender someone with whom you do want to build a stronger bond and relationship?

In all of the above examples forgiveness implies the removal of negative emotions – the removal of anger, vengeance, anxiety, ruminations, etc.

In the case where you want to rebuild a relationship, then complete forgiveness includes the removal of all the negative emotions and, the addition of positive emotions such as compassion and, the display of pro-social behavior.

It is possible to reduce negative emotions associated with unforgiveness without forgiving; this can be achieved through behavior such as acceptance of the offense and offender, seeing justice done or even getting successful revenge. I would argue, though, that ‘getting successful revenge’ does not lead to inner peace, nor does it bring about positive, long-lasting emotions or pro-social behavior. Schadenfreude (the pleasure over someone else’s misery or misfortune) does not satisfy the soul. Further, while you seek or wait or pine for the feeling of Schadenfreude, you are hurting yourself by filling yourself with negative emotions.

Whom have you not yet forgiven?
What is your response to the offender?

Review these 2 sample forgiveness scales/assessments and determine where you are in the process of forgiveness.

Transgression-Related Interpersonal Motivations Scale (TRIM)

1. I’ll make him/her pay.
2. I keep as much distance between us as possible.
3. I wish that something bad would happen to him/her.
4. I live as if he/she doesn’t exist, isn’t around.
5. I don’t trust him/her.
6. I want him/her to get what he/she deserves.
7. I find it difficult to act warmly toward him/her.
8. I avoid him/her.
9. I’m going to get even.
10. I cut off the relationship with him/her.
11. I want to see him/her hurt and miserable.
12. I withdraw from him/her.

{Source: McCullough, M.E., Rachal, K.C., Sandage, S.J., Worthington, E.L., Jr., Brown, S.W., & Hight, T.L. (1998). Interpersonal forgiving in close relationships: II. Theoretical elaboration and measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 1586-1603.}

Rye Forgiveness Scale

1. I can’t stop thinking about how I was wronged by this person.
2. I wish for good things to happen to the person who wronged me.
3. I spend time thinking about ways to get back at the person who wronged me.
4. I feel resentful toward the person who wronged me.
5. I avoid certain people and/or places because they remind me of the person who wronged me.
6. I pray for the person who wronged me.
7. If I encountered the person who wronged me I would feel at peace.
8. This person’s wrongful actions have kept me from enjoying life.
9. I have been able to let go of my anger toward the person who wronged me.
10. I become depressed when I think of how I was mistreated by this person.
11. I think that many of the emotional wounds related to this person’s wrongful actions have healed.
12. I feel hatred whenever I think about the person who wronged me.
13. I have compassion for the person who wronged me.
14. I think my life is ruined because of this person’s wrongful actions.
15. I hope the person who wronged me is treated fairly by others in the future.

{Rye, M.S., Loiacono, D.M., Folck, C.D., Olszewski B.T., Heim, T.A., & Madia, B.P. (2001). Evaluation of the psychometric properties of two forgiveness scales. Current Psychology, 20, 260-277.}

Finally, consider your responses and their impacts:

Are you avoiding or dismissing the offender?
This response is denial of the actual pain and effect the wrongdoing had on you, falsely thinking that this conscious choice brings you peace, security or safety. This response simply suppresses the actual anger and other negative emotions you have at a deeper level. They will be triggered by someone or something else.

Are you focused on seeking revenge on the offender?
This response consumes your energy and draws you away from the truly meaningful things in life and the things you actually want – love, connection, happiness, inner peace, realization of your goals and dreams.

Are you ruminating or obsessed with the pain of the offense and wrongdoing of the offender?
This response also consumes your energy, creates more stress in your body, and repels other people from wanting to be close or getting close to you.

Are you stuck in self-pity and victimhood?
This response prevents you from living life to its fullest and from being a creator in your life. If you choose to benefit from being a victim, you will always choose to stay there and you will always be helpless, weak and afraid! If you say, ‘I am not afraid; I am angry’, then you are probably being the ‘Persecutor.’

Are you moving towards expressing compassion?
The choice to understand and accept that we are all humans and therefore all imperfect, neutralizes negative emotions and lowers stress; it also neutralizes the feelings of being isolated, disconnected or an outsider.

Are you choosing to fill your heart, mind and soul with positive emotions and positive desires for those around you?
Give away what you want! You want others to give you second chances, to understand you and your flaws; you want others to be more patient, tolerant and accepting of you; you want others to desire the best for you? Of course, you do. So, start doing that towards others!

If you need personal help to let go and forgive, book a one-on-one session with me.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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