Archive for the ‘When to Forgive’ Tag


Push the Forgiving One Page at a Time button/photo to the left of this post and you’ll find the option to buy a signed copy of a modified version of When to Forgive.

Including less detail, and fewer case stories, it provides a way for you to work very directly with your own forgiveness issues. advertises an e-book version which has one review – mine, which tells you not to buy the e-book. Why? Because it defeats the purpose, and the publisher did it in spite of my objection.

That’s because the book is designed to be your own workbook/journal. After a general introduction, it includes written material on the left hand page, and guides on the right hand page for you to enter your own reactions/situation.

Like When to Forgive it’s purpose is to help you make your own decisions about whether to forgive and how. Like the larger book, it helps you take into account the reaction you can expect as a result of what you decide and do.

If you’d like to see reviews of this book, go to

If it’s all the same to you, however, I’d appreciate your buying directly from me.

I’m including a photo below of the comments on the back cover.

One person called me with a report but refrained from posting it on amazon. What he said pleased me, though. He said he and his wife had an argument just before she left for a meeting. Restlessly angry, he picked up a copy of forgiving One Page at a Time which was lying on the table. “I went through most of it,” he said, “and then called her to apologize.”

One never knows what reactions will result when someone explores his or her own distress over a perceived injustice.

Back Cover One Page ...






I believe clicking on this image will enlarge it. (I hope so, anyway.)n

WHEN TO FORGIVE – Buttons are ready   10 comments

A brilliant guru at Joyful Computing has figured out how to place “buttons” by means of which one can order my books from my blog. Actually, it’s not a button that one clicks on, but a photo of the book included to the left of the post (not the photo in the header). Starting with today’s entry, I’d like to highlight each of my available books, one post at a time.

During my final years on the faculty of Southern Connecticut State University my special area was the Psychology of Women. I’ll talk about that influence in a subsequent blog on “Mrs. Job.” But today it’s “When to Forgive.”

Happily when I retired from SCSU I was in a position to work on another area of professional interest – the Psychology of Forgiveness. The result of that focus was “When to Forgive,” today’s topic.

Not the newest of my books, I’ll alert you up front that it is the most expensive, the price being set by the publisher, New Harbinger. It has been around long enough to move from a price tag of $13.95 to $16.95. (oops! is offering a discounted price of $14.34. If you’d like a signed copy from me at that price, please contact me via the e-mail button below the button photos.)

There has also been time for it to accumulate some comments in addition to those offered at the time of its publication. For example the following, which I have been given permission to quote:

Written just for me! Thank you Dr. Affinito. Your book on forgiveness must have been written just for me. After reading just the first chapter, I realized just how much I have been punishing myself with my need to immediately forgive others. Now I realize that I need to go through the process, just like mourning. I went out and purchased a journal and gave myself permission to take the time and energy necessary to understand why I felt the way I do and to discern what I want to happen in the end. I’m buying this book for many of my friends and my wife is already anxious to take my copy – but I think I’ll buy her a copy of her own. Just a great resource to reflect and go back to time and time again”

As for comments at the time of publication, I’m posting a link to the back page. You’ll find reader reviews there too.

I believe what sets “When to Forgive” apart from other forgiveness books is just what the comment above implies. It isn’t a “You must forgive” argument. It is, rather, a guide to making the reader’s own decision about whether to forgive, and how. It is also unique in providing a definition of forgiveness. It might not be the definition on which everyone would agree, but for one who works through this book it provides clarity of meaning and goal.

In the process of writing it I sought out, and sometimes just happened to discover, stories of forgiveness of all kinds of offenses. Many of them are provided as examples.

I hope this helps you decide whether you want to click on the “When to Forgive” photo to order a copy.

This would also be a great opportunity to comment on your own experiences with forgiving — or deciding not to.

In my next post I’ll give details on “Forgiving One Page at a Time.”


Last evening I finally got my DVD working and watched a program on Forgiveness. Unfortunately I was alone at home, so there was no one with whom to share my distress. So now you are it.

The problem with the topic of forgiveness is that people are talking about all kinds of things. Not just apples and oranges, but throw in some carrots and tomatoes too

So, here are some things that distressed me. One person thought that forgiving meant not getting angry. WRONG. Anger is the first step – well, maybe the second – in a long tough process of deciding whether to forgive, and if so, how.

Another person thought forgiving meant saying what the other person did was all right. WRONG. If you think the other person did nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to forgive. No, forgiveness happens, if you choose it, because the offender did something wrong.

Some seemed to think that forgiving means the lawbreaker will pay no price for the crime. WRONG. You are not the legal system, though these days you certainly do have an opportunity to influence it. You can forgive, relieving yourself of the negative effects of un-utilized anger, without preventing appropriate legal penalties.

And that brings me back to anger. What a gift! What a motivator! The issue is not to avoid or deny anger, but to harness it.

Some thought they couldn’t forgive unless the offender requested it and showed sufficient remorse. That may be the truth for some people, but it has its negative effects. Mainly the loss of power. As long as you are waiting for the person who hurt you in the first place to take action, you are powerless, stuck with your anger and pain.

One more thing I noticed. A couple of people said murder was unforgiveable because the person who was hurt is dead and therefore can’t act. But the truth is, the murder of one person has a wide-ranging effect on loved ones, fellow workers, the larger community. The killer has hurt each of those people. Each one has the right to forgive – or not.

There’s more, but I’ll stop here. My point is that the decision whether to forgive – and how – is a long, complicated personal process. And yes, I did say “whether” to forgive. That’s the point.

And as I see people wrestling with these problems, I can’t help wanting to make sure they are aware of my two books on forgiving. The point in both of them is to help readers make their own decisions. No speeches, just guidance through the options and considering the outcome of one’s choices.

I’ve got to find out how to put a PayPal button on my blog. In the meantime, Please reduce my stress and yours by checking out When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time

By the way, if you decide to buy “Forgiving One Page at a Time,” don’t choose the kindle edition. I tried to stop the publisher from turning it into a kindle book. It won’t work, because it really is fashioned as a diary with some points and questions on the left hand page and a place for your own entries on the right.

One last thing. If you have an opinion about either of the books, please do share it in the comment section.



I’m back! I tried to stay in touch with you all while I was on vacation from this post, often with just a “like” to let you know I’m paying attention.

And now I have probably more to say than either of us would prefer, but I hope you’ll stay with me. As usual, my thoughts have been grinding away.

I just finished reading “All But My Life” by Gerda Weissmann Klein, the memoir of a young woman born in Poland in 1924 who endured and survived the brutality and slavery of the Nazi holocaust. Because she is such an excellent writer, one feels the abject misery and humiliation without her ever telling us what we should be feeling. Just the direct reporting of events is all that’s needed for a powerful reminder of the abomination of which “ordinary” people are capable. And an indicator of the stealth with which the reality of developing sadism creeps up on victims who have faith in the goodness and decency of humanity.

I read it on the heels of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, a fictional portrayal of the gradual involvement of “innocent” people in supporting the Nazi terror. It would be difficult, I believe, for one to read this without heightening the awareness of the ever-present threat of horror built on indifference.

These observations lead me to the quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller, who, an outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler, spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Both books I’ve mentioned remind me of the potential danger in avoiding awareness and confrontation. And both books offered much in the way of analysis of personal approaches to survival.

But my purpose here is more limited to the thoughts I’ve been having about forgiveness. The person who recommended Klein’s book to me suggested it was a story of forgiveness. But I realize something different – perhaps parallel to forgiveness –was going on. The author never focuses on her anger toward her tormentors, but rather on what she can do to survive. In other words, all her energy was directed toward staying alive.

I noticed that same phenomenon at the time of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre. When the parents of a murdered child were asked by an interviewer whether they would be able to forgive the shooter, their response was, basically, “We can’t spend our time focused on him. We have a family to care for. We need to find a way to go on, and maybe even heal.”

I think we need a new word, something like “forego-ness.” While the point of forgiveness is that it starts with blaming the offender and experiencing our anger, the two examples above demonstrate foregoing any attention to the wrongdoer. Control rested in the hands of those parents, and in the charge of author Klein. They simply bypassed the anger, the first step in forgiveness, and went directly to focusing on taking care of themselves.

I have regularly defined “forgiveness” as the decision not to punish an offender and the relief that follows. I think I should describe that relief more specifically as removing power from the offender and taking back control over one’s own life. If refusing to forgive is like locking oneself in a cell and handing the keys to the offender. Then the result of deciding not to punish is equivalent to taking the keys back.

As always, I know I have to point out this doesn’t mean one decides the offender shouldn’t pay a price, but rather that the forgiver’s life can move on without being controlled by concern for the one who caused the pain.

The metaphor for “forego-ness” would have no image of keys or cells. One simply doesn’t lock oneself in the cell in the first place.

I do hope I’ll get some comments on these ideas. And I hope the commenter will be you.

And there’s still When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time for your perusal if you choose.


I think it’s safe to say that vengeance is the most powerful obstacle to forgiveness. I have been reminded of that recently in reading Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality

I’m especially alert these days to quotable material as I anticipate the four-session discussion of forgiveness I’ll be leading at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota. So I made note of page 151 where he reports “good advice about not engaging in revenge.”

A number of wise men have warned us against the would-be benefits of vengeance. Mark Twain said, “Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.” Walter Weckler further observed that “revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst.” And Albert Schweitzer noted that “Revenge … is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.”

 The problem is, as Ariely points out, the urge to vengeance is a powerful built in response to perceived offense. For those who would encourage forgiveness – as I do – it’s a problem requiring solution. Part of the solution lies in the other point he makes, that the vengeful emotion fades a bit with time. That’s why we count to ten, I guess.

But there are other things we can do, as some of my clients have done. We can, for example, engage in wonderful fantasies of clever methods of torturing the offender. Carrying out the fantasies would probably not be a good idea, much as they would backfire on oneself  – guilt, for example, an awareness that one’s own morality has been breached.  Or the very fact that someone who has been punished rarely smiles with a “Thanks I needed that.” Nope, vengeance breeds vengeance.

But maybe we need to add something. Vengeance doesn’t necessarily mean physical violence. In fact, Ariely goes on to give examples of what might be called positive effects of vengeance. One quick example (page 154). Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose successful steamship company was basically stolen from him by a couple of associates, responded as follows:  “Gentlemen, you have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.” Then he formed a new company so successful that eventually he regained control of his first company.

OK. I’m sure the punished associates didn’t perceive that as positive. For them it was emotional and financial violence. But it did work for Vanderbilt.

I’ll leave it at that. Food for thought. Knowing the hazards of vengeance, how do we handle it when it comes so naturally? It’s complicated. And now I’ll shamelessly refer to my two forgiveness books, both of which recognize that forgiveness is a difficult but doable process: When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time.

And if you come across some nice, tidy “forgiveness” saying, I’d be very happy if you’d share it in a comment. Or maybe even a personal story of dealing with vengeance?


Today I’m adding the final bulleted suggestions on helping someone decide how to handle a forgiveness issue. All are from pages 4-5 of When to Forgive . Please remember, 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,the final complete list of 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.
  • As the book progresses, you can serve by moving beyond being the effective listener to being a good discussant. Perhaps you’ll be invited to talk over some ideas presented in the problem-solving phase. Remember to take direction from your friend; let the sufferer tell you how active he or she wants you to be in offering ideas.
  • As your friend moves closer to making a decision, the fact that you are familiar with the offense that has occurred, and the people involved, makes you a good potential resource for considering the practicality of any punishment options that may be considered.
  • You may gain some insights about yourself in this process and want to get feedback on what you are learning. But remember the focus is on helping to heal the person who suffered the offense.


Today I’m adding the second bullet to the guides for someone who’s trying to help a friend or acquaintance work through the issue of whether and how to forgive. Maybe to get oriented, you might want to read yesterday’s blog.

Following are the first two suggestions for the helper from pages 4-5 of When to Forgive..

  • 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.

Over the next few days I’ll be adding more bullet points. In the meantime, I’d love some feedback. Examples of helping or being helped would be wonderful.



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