The International Forgiveness Institute has been researching a topic usually associated with religion.
Most of us accept the reality that forgiving another person who has wronged us will bring spiritual peace. But can it also bring psychological health?
Gathering information from traditional, philosophical, psychological and developmental sources, as well as personal anecdotes and surveys, the IFI has come up with a functional definition of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is moral, as it reacts in a positive way to a moral wrongdoing.
Forgiveness reflects goodwill as it restrains from revenge, offering generosity and contributing to the betterment of the other person. Forgiveness is paradoxical as it forgoes revenge, even if the other person deserves it, and offers instead mercy, generosity and love. Forgiveness goes beyond duty in that it is a freely chosen gift that overcomes wrongdoing with good.
We are reminded that when we forgive another person, this does not necessarily mean that we forget, deny, condone, excuse, condemn or seek justice or compensation.
Are forgiveness and reconciliation the same? Forgiveness involves one person’s moral response to another’s injustice, but reconciliation involves two parties coming together in mutual respect.
How do we forgive?
There are four phases in the forgiving process.
The first is the uncovering phase, where we recognize the emotional pain that has resulted from an unjust injury and try to function effectively despite it.
The second phase is the decision phase where we entertain the idea of forgiveness and forgo any thoughts of revenge.
The third phase is the work phase, where we try to understand the other person, accept the pain he has caused and be willing to offer him goodwill.
The fourth phase is the outcome/deepening phase where we realize that by forgiving the other person, we have achieved emotional relief and may discover a new purpose in life.
“As we give the gift of forgiveness we ourselves are healed.”
For more information on forgiveness, you may wish to log onto the International Forgiveness Institute’s Web Site at www.forgiveness-institute.org