Archive for August 20, 2012


Today I’m adding the fourth bulleted suggestion from pages 4-5 of When to Forgive. First, though, a reminder. This is not about a command to forgive. Telling someone to forgive is dangerous. It might result  in a quick recitation of “I forgive” without the hard work behind it and accomplishment of the real and important gains of a good forgiveness decision. Shame might be added to the pain of suffering an offense if the victim believes in the “ought to forgive” and can’t. That’s the hazard of sermons — religious or otherwise — that tell the sufferer he or she must forgive. Realistically there may be actions the sufferer must take before genuine forgiveness. Or, it’s even possible that the sufferer might be better off choosing not to forgive. “When to Forgive” is about making and carrying out a decision after careful thought and work.

So, here goes, more on what you might do to help someone trying to deal with the pain of an offense as he or she considers the forgiveness option.

  • Be a good listener. Telling his or her own story is absolutely crucial to a person’s recovery from the effects of an offense. Encourage giving details, but don’t press your own advice or suggestions. Ask questions that encourage going into depth, but be sensitive to the person’s own self-regulating system. Don’t push beyond what he or she is ready to report. There are situations of extreme trauma where the victim is better off not remembering what happened.”
  • When your friend is asked to ‘probe the wound,’ ask for as much detail as possible. In fact, you may know the situation well enough that you can remember some things your friend has forgotten. But let your friend be in control of how much he or she can tolerate.
  • You can discuss and help clarify, but don’t impose your own view. You can also help your companion fend off the efforts of others to dictate their beliefs.
  • Your friend making the journey may want you to provide some feedback. Sometimes you may observe things that he or she doesn’t readily see. Often it’s the positives that people have difficulty identifying in themselves.
%d bloggers like this: