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An atheist's take on the virtue of forgiveness

I thought this was the strategy of the whites, to come to South Africa to call for capital punishment. I was very confused.

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They seemed to understand that the youth of the townships had carried this crisis, this fight for liberation, on their shoulders. It is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other. Engaging in the P rocess of F orgiveness. Experiencing forgiveness either towards self or others can have a constructive, life-altering effect as part of the process of healing personal pain and trauma as well as building more peaceful communities. But much of what has been said about forgiving others also applies to forgiving yourself.

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While there is no set order of actions to take, one may start with putting an end to self-punishment. This involves letting go of your self-hatred and self-pity. As with forgiving others, self-forgiveness is not about forgetting about the past or excusing bad behavior. It is about taking responsibility, healing, and changing. It is also worth noting that self-forgiveness is different from forgiving someone else in one important way, in that it must be about reconciliation.

When you forgive another, reconciliation is a choice; but an important part of forgiving yourself is to integrate your previously unacceptable characteristics so that you can accept all of who you are without self-sabotaging, which can lead to self-abuse or any type of addiction. Luskin makes a helpful distinction by breaking self-forgiveness into four main categories:.

These categories can overlap; for instance, you could be upset with yourself for your alcohol abuse and the impact it has on your spouse. Self-forgiveness can also be an aspect of interpersonal forgiveness. While you can be angry and upset with someone else for hurting you, you can also be angry and upset with yourself for the part you may have played. Learning to forgive yourself gives you the freedom to heal, let go, and move on. It is a tool that allows you to become more self-aware. Moreover, some believe that you cannot forgive another until you have learned self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

In this sense, forgiveness is a movement of compassion; and learning to forgive yourself is an important step in learning to become a forgiving person. When aggression leads to injury, pain, and shock, people may go through different phases to deal with their hurt.

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The following stages may apply to the experience, thought processes, and actions of individual victims or perpetrators as well as whole groups:. Highlights and lessons from many of these stories are presented below. However, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone experiences all of these components, nor necessarily in the same order. Forgiveness is not a fixed process and it may have no completion.

Triggers throughout life might throw one off course again; therefore it is probably more helpful to think of forgiveness as a direction, rather than a destination.

Brenda's father pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and served two and half years in prison. I still felt a deep level of anger at myself for ever trusting my father, demonstrated by my over-eating. It was while taking a course in spiritual psychology that I recognized how with each negative thought directed at my father I was re-wounding myself.

Shad Ali is a British Pakistani who has lived and worked in Nottingham all his life.

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In July , he was violently attacked when he came to the rescue of two Pakistani women who were being racially abused by a passing pedestrian. In spite of this, forgiving has really helped me move forward after the attack. It has been about me, and has nothing to do with the man who attacked me. In , Matthew Boger and Tim Zaal had a life-changing conversation. Both were working at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles when they realized they had met 26 years earlier, when a group of teen-aged Nazi punks attacked and beat a gay homeless year-old boy. Matthew Boger was that young boy and Tim Zaal, at age 17, was a member of the group who left Matthew for dead in a West Hollywood alley.

Samantha, at just 18, lost both parents in one fatal blow. Thirteen years later, for the first time since the murder, Samantha visited her dying father in prison. In Letlapa Mphahlele, the man who master-minded the attack, invited Ginn to his homecoming ceremony and asked her to make a speech.

Vulnerable feelings, when expressed to other people, have the potential to establish lasting bonds.

Both men now live as neighbors in Rwanda. He brought food and banana wine.


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Again he started crying and repeatedly saying how sorry he was. Eventually I escorted him home. Then my wife and I embarked on the path of true reconciliation. We wanted to do more than just forgive, but to actually live as neighbors and friends, side by side. We wanted to improve society, to respond to evil with goodness. So now his mother also comes to my home, and we share meals.

Acknowledging guilt is hard, because people are uncomfortable with their own shame, and afraid to recognize that they are to blame. Forgiving people, however, also recognize that some wrong-doers are simply unable to face their own shame and therefore cannot take responsibility.

In other words, if you wait for remorse and apology to happen, you may wait forever. Anne, a victim of sexual abuse, has forgiven the man who repeatedly abused her during her childhood. Frequently Rami gives public talks alongside his Palestinian friends, such as Bassam Aramin, whose year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier in Where does forgiveness fit into this difficult dialogue between two bereaved fathers, or two communities at war? How can you forgive when the power imbalance is so vast and when justice is so far from being achieved?

For Rami, forgiveness is not the solution, but part of a quest to understand what makes a young man so angry that he chooses to blow himself up alongside a group of year-old girls. The feeling was mutual. It was powerful and passionate and we described each other as soul mates. This was going to be the defining relationship of my life. However, just six months later Jack started to behave differently. Sensing something was wrong, I confronted him and he confessed he had strong feelings for someone else. Our relationship quickly and painfully unravelled.

I was stunned, angry, and very upset. I thought of all the special things that Jack had said to me and wondered how his feelings could just have evaporated into thin air. I felt humiliated, betrayed, and profoundly hurt. I changed my lens and gained a new perspective.

I found comfort there. If there was a place I could find grace, it was in the streets. Based on the above-mentioned key components, forgiveness can be difficult to bring about, and may require a series of challenging intellectual and emotional stages for those involved to go through. To conclude our discussion of forgiveness at an individual level, the following story of the over collected and shared by The Forgiveness Project sums up the complex, untidy, and often intangible journey of forgiveness:. Forgiveness is a fresh, on-going, ever-present position of the mind, which takes on many different forms.

This will be discussed under the Engaging in the Reconciliation Process heading, just below.