How many times do you have to forgive the other party in a conflict?
Well, if certain books are to be believed, quite a lot.
In a world of instant messaging, instant gratification and instant stimulation with instant reactions, the long, slow, deliberative act of forgiving someone else for something that they’ve done to you can be emotionally exhausting for many people.
There are a few things to consider before getting on the forgiveness train:
Who does it impact? – Finding the motive to forgive, just like finding the motive to engage in a conflict, comes down to understanding who benefits from forgiveness. Do you benefit more than the other person, or does the other person benefit more than you? Many people will respond from zero-sum thinking (“If I forgive the other party, then I lose something, i.e. my position, my ability to be ‘right’, etc.”) but sometimes the gains are deeper than the losses.
What can really change, and what can’t? – Do people change? Well, we don’t know the answer to that question, but we can say that people deserve the chance to change. And sometimes people deserve to be punished. But without knowing everything about a situational conflict (and people inside of situational conflicts rarely know everything about themselves or the other party) makes that decision harder, not easier. In popular culture, dealing out death in judgment, is seen as retributive and righting all wrongs. But asking the question about what can change in a situation to make it better for both you and the other party is key to getting on the path to forgiveness.
How do you go about doing it? – Advice, tips, tactics and even strategies fail here, as the “how” is invariably entangled in the gossamer of the conflict itself. But one thing to consider is how to heal oneself first, before attempting to “fix” the other party. Forgiveness is a personal act that starts from within and moves outward in ever expanding concentric circles.
Where does forgiving somebody begin and where does it end? – Restorative justice practices unite perpetrators and victims of crimes. Depending upon the cultural background of the victim and the perpetrator, these efforts may work, or may backfire. However, when there is a conflict in the midst of a shared culture (a work culture, a school culture or a family culture) forgiving begins in the minds—and hearts—of the participants in the conflict. As far as where forgiveness ends, well, that’s subjective as well.
When can you forgive? –Whenever you like. Or not at all.
In the West, forgiveness is wrapped up with religious proscriptions, but in reality, forgiveness is deeply psychological and a process based in science. The results of forgiveness—lowered blood pressure, less stress, reduced stroke risk—should be tied more to the actual process of getting on board with someone who has wronged you.
But the act of forgiveness is personal, difficult and time consuming, But in a world of emotional labor, it might be the most important journey we ever embark on.
Click on the link here and download the FREE HSCT White Paper on FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION TODAY!
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org