Principles of Forgiveness

“Many of my colleagues in the social sciences, quite frankly, thought that I had lost my mind studying such a ‘soft or inappropriate topic’ such as forgiveness.  ‘Leave the examination of forgiveness to the clergy,’ I was told.  ‘You’ll never get a job working in academia if you stick with that Enright,’ my graduate students were counseled.  ‘This topic has nothing to do with social science,’ I heard whispered more than once. 

I’ve battled through misunderstandings, indifference, and anger from others as I’ve tried to bring some perspective and depth to the question ‘What is forgiveness?’” ~Robert D. Enright, PhD.

When striving for personal growth do we sometimes overlook the power of forgiveness?  In our struggle to heal ourselves and others do we understand the key role forgiveness plays?

Forgiveness is something we may think we understand, but when faced with it, we often find ourselves at a loss.  What is it really, and how do we actually do it?  We may fall short when faced with these questions.  Even those from vibrant religious backgrounds can draw a blank about the true nature of forgiveness, yet, it is a fundamental component of a healthy, happy life. 

This is why it’s critical for mothers  to build a home life centered on forgiveness in order to empower their families with the tools for emotional and spiritual well-being.

In this podcast, Audrey Rindlisbacher introduces the insightful book Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enright, PhD.  In his book, Dr. Enright shares what he learned about forgiveness through a clinical study of incest survivors and the effect of forgiveness on their ability to find emotional and spiritual health.  You will hear Dr. Enright’s 7 points defining forgiveness, what you will gain when you forgive, and 5 Tools for forgiveness taught by Jesus Christ, the very author and source of forgiveness.

Listener’s Guide:

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast. 

2.06  The case for forgiveness 
9:38  Robert Enright’s clinical study about forgiveness
13:30  What forgiveness is and what it is not
14.52  Results you can expect when you forgive
16:27  5 Forgiveness Helps from the Bible
29:27  A story of the healing power of forgiveness

Quotes from this episode:

“We could fill volumes with case histories and first person accounts of how forgiveness has set people free.” ~Dr. Robert Enright

“[You will] learn that the first person that forgiveness changes is the person doing the forgiving.” ~Dr. Robert Enright

 “We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol. This was our course. We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’” ~Alcoholics Anonymous

Forgiveness Help #1: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ~Matthew 6: 12, 15-16

Forgiveness Help #2: “Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” ~Luke 23:34

 Forgiveness Help #3: “So when they continued asking him [Jesus], he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” ~John 8:7

 Forgiveness Help #4: “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” ~Matt. 24:10

Forgiveness Help #5: “The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” ~Matt. 19:20-22

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.” ~Immaculee Ilibagiza

Notes from this episode:
What Forgiveness is and is not:

  1. It is an entirely internal experience. 
  2. It says you have a right to your anger but you choose to voluntarily give up that right.
  3. It is about your emotions and no one else’s. 
  4. It is about your behavior and no one else’s.
  5. It clears your vision of yourself and the other person. 
  6. It is in NO WAY connected to any external consequences to you, the perpetrator or your relationship.
  7. Forgiveness is NOT trust.
When You Forgive, You Will Gain the Ability To: 
  1. Execute healthy boundaries 
  2. Deal with the persecutor in healthy ways 
  3. Discern between healthy and unhealthy relationships 
  4. Discern the appropriate level of involvement and trust in the relationship 
  5. Deal with other relationships in healthier, happier ways
  6.  Move on with your life and form happier relationships

Books from this episode: