Finding Meaning in Grief

In the plethora of human experiences, grief is perhaps the most universal and most likely the most difficult with which to cope. The very nature of grief demands that the event that precipitated the grief become meaningful. Yet how can the loss of a person that held together one’s inner world possibly become meaningful? How can a meaningless loss ever become a meaningful gain? Somehow, one needs to find a thread of meaning that can allow one to be grateful for the past, to accept the present, and have hope for the future, but where can that golden thread be found? The philosopher Friedrich … [Read more...]

Is Forgiveness Essential?

I think it should be clear from what we have discovered about forgiveness in earlier posts that forgiveness is beneficial at many levels of human life, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually.  Is it at the same time essential to human existence?  This is one of the important questions posed by E. Wayne Hill in his article, “Discovering forgiveness through empathy:  implications for couple and family therapy” published in the Journal of Family Therapy.  Is forgiveness more analogous to an enjoyable sunset or a restful vacation, a beautiful moment that brings refreshment? Or is … [Read more...]

Forgiveness of Wrongs and the Remembrance of Wrongs

Statements such as “I will forgive, but I won’t forget” and “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names” are oft-quoted phrases that remain popular to this day.  They represent a tip of the hat to the virtue of forgiveness while reserving the full rights to nurse the offense well into the future.  While some will view such an attitude as practical in a world where self-preservation is paramount, these sentiments aren’t supported by psychological research and are even further from the spirit of the Church. In fact, holding such attitudes has been found to be detrimental to … [Read more...]

The Way Towards Forgiveness and the Way of Denial

Genuine forgiveness requires rigorous honesty. That is why there is perhaps no greater obstacle to forgiveness than denial, for when we deny that an offense has occurred, when we refuse to admit that the offended is a valuable human being, or when we minimize the consequences of our wrongs, we are denying ourselves the possibility of looking within, of taking responsibility for our actions, of amending our misdeeds, and of changing in a direction that leads to peace and to love. We are denying the very possibility for forgiveness. Why do we give into denial? The primary culprits are a fear of … [Read more...]

Fostering Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a source of many blessings. Through forgiveness we gain a brother or sister who was lost. Through forgiveness, it is as though we who were dead through resentment once again become alive through a mended relationship. Through forgiveness, we touch the living Source of all forgiveness, our most forgiving Lord. In reflecting upon forgiveness, I’ve written about the positive effects forgiveness, which are bestowed upon the one who forgives as well as the one who is in need of forgiveness. It is highly beneficial physically, psychologically, socially, and most importantly, … [Read more...]

Being Conscientious, Being Warm, and Being Forgiving

How we approach problems in our relationships with others and whether or not we are inclined to seek forgiveness depends not only on our free will and our openness to the teachings of the Gospel, but also on the virtues we hold most dear. Some people value warmth that translates into showing compassion, demonstrating empathy, and exhibiting altruism. Others tend to prize conscientiousness that means exercising self-control, manifesting integrity, and championing justice. The set of virtues that we allow to be the primary guide of our actions will play a direct role on our disposition to … [Read more...]

Empathy, Ruminations, and the Way of the Fathers

In continuing the discussion of psychological antecedents to forgiveness, psychologists rightly place a high value on the trait of empathy. Riek and Mania write, “Empathy consists of cognitively perceiving the world from another’s perspective and emotionally experiencing what another feels (Stephan & Finlay, 1999; Wade & Worthington, 2005). A number of models of forgiveness posit empathy as a key variable in the process of forgiveness (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2000; Worthington, 1998). On the basis of work linking empathy with altruism, McCullough and colleagues (1997) predicted and … [Read more...]

Guilt and Forgiveness

Guilt fascinates people. Guilt in others arouses our curiosity. Guilt in ourselves prompts us to do something to assuage our guilty feelings. We all make mistakes that we could have avoided, mistakes that we feel responsible for, mistakes that have consequences that we regret. And our thoughts about those mistakes can take the form of guilt that in the best of scenarios includes an admission of wrongdoing, a feeling of responsibility, and desire to make some kind of amends. Yes, we are all interested in guilt, because it is intimately connected to our lives in one way or another. A cursory … [Read more...]

Some Patristic Thoughts and the REACH Model of Forgiveness

The REACH model of forgiveness is a secular model that may illumine our path. Early in the morning New Year’s Day in 1996, psychologist Everett Worthington received a call that would alter his life. It would also transform the work of a lifetime from the rarefied air of academia to the cruel practicalities of existence in a fallen world. He had just received a phone call from his brother that his 76-year-old mother had been murdered. Worthington had recently finished his book, To Forgive is Human. Yet, in the wake of his own mother’s murder, he lost sight of his research and writing. As … [Read more...]

Forgiveness in Writing

If failing to forgive is in large part due to an unwillingness to forgive, what are some practical means to increase our will to forgive?  We can commit ourselves to daily reading Scriptural passages on forgiveness or patristic texts such as those used in this series on forgiveness. We can pray for the strength to forgive even as we have been forgiven. We can also use the written word in other ways to strengthen our intentions. Putting something in writing is a powerful way to shape our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can clarify our thoughts in a way daydreaming never can. It can … [Read more...]