Forgiveness is easier said than done. Forgiving requires interpersonal and intrapersonal components (Romero, 2008). Interpersonal offenses can lead to some cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses (McCullough et al., 2009). When people are involved in any type of offense, they may feel hurt or angry. Much of this may lead to avoidance or provocation, which can lead to revenge. There are occasions when shame and guilt are experienced. In this case, apologizing and making amends could be warranted and beneficial. Keep in mind, not all instances require apologies. It will depend on the parties involved and whether or not they value the relationship more than the right for feel the pain or betrayal associated.
The components of forgiveness include both intrapersonal and interpersonal communication. Interpersonally, forgiveness is the active participation of parties with verbal and non-verbal constructive communication, which may lead to reconciliation. Intrapersonal communication regarding forgiveness, involves making cognizant choices to encourage positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and negate the opposing efforts of destructive thought, feelings or the thought of seeking revenge or avoidance (Romero, 2008).
The two topics of forgiveness and reconciliation are intertwined, yet very different. You can have forgiveness without reconciliation, but not reconciliation without forgiveness. Reconciliation is the mutual beginning of the restoration of trust in a relationship, that has been damaged. To achieve this, both parties must contribute to the process of resolution. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is when the offended accepts the offender’s apology (Tavuchi, 2011: Govier, 2002). This is where the phrase “forgive and forget” is proven to not be justified. When someone is hurt by a partner, after trust has been betrayed, they could easily end up terminating the relationship.
They could choose to forgive that former partner without reconciliation. Even in forgiveness, they do not forget the hurt or betrayal. In the same situation, if reconciliation does not occur, it does not mean that they were not forgiven. With reconciliation, it does not necessarily mean that full forgiveness has been achieved either. When one or both parties are involved in conflict, they could decide to put their issues apart and seem as if it never happened (McCullough et al., 2009).
When parities are able to set aside their differences, is one method of avoiding complications that could cause an awkward exchange of communication or avoidance all together as they are able to manage the complex interactions of conflict. According to McCullough et al. (2009), as time passes and the recollection of the conflict begins to fade, the pain or feelings associated with the conflict also fades. The statement that ‘time heals all wounds’ is true, but unfortunately, the memories and pain can be reactivated when a similar activity happens around them.
The process of being forgiven begins with realizing that the offender has done wrong, and accept the fact they have done wrong. Once responsibility has been accepted, then the realization for the need to apologize will be prevalent. According to Tomm (2016), the steps towards forgiveness begins with the need to offer a genuine apology. The ingredients for a true apology must include the presence of recognition of harm that had been done, and the realization of the hurt inflicted by the offender, along with remorse and willingness to appeal for their forgiveness (Tomm, 2016).
Even when all components for a true apology are included, it doesn’t mean that it will always lead to forgiveness of the offender. Overwhelming emotions, fear, and the preconceived notion that one has to forgive, are all victim based barriers that can lead to ineffective apology acceptance. A lot of the circumstances, apology and forgiveness depend on the victim. It is also important that the victim’s rights to retaliate, criticize, seek compensation or hold on to moral advantage can be lost should the apology be accepted (Tomm, 2016).
In 1995, Donald Shriver Jr first wrote about the four elements required to effective reconciliation. It was later updated in 2007. For an apology to even be considered, the offender and the offended must be willing to restore the relationship. Shriver first addressed the fundamental questions in regards to forgiveness in regards to secular political platform. He then looked into the place of religion in forgiveness, and then into intrapersonal act and the unique value of forgiveness. These strands are:
Moral judgment. ““Forgiveness begins with remembering a moral judgment of wrong, injustice, and inquiry.” (Shriver, 2007).
Forbearance from revenge. “Forgiveness gets its real start under the double impetus of judgment and forbearance from revenge. Forbearance opens the door towards a future that will not repeat the old crimes.” (Shriver, 2007).
Empathy for wrong doers. “…empathy for the enemy’s humanity.” (Shriver, 2007).
Hope for renewal of fractured relationships. “Genuine forgiveness aims at the renewal of the human relationship.” (Shriver, 2007).
If a victim is hindered by the past, it usually requires more dialogue. Both sides often collect grievances, scars of anger and hurt, and often the thought of revenge. It is important that these thoughts be brought forward and acknowledged by all involved. According to Shriver (2007) it is not enough to have a collective acknowledgment, but reconciliation should lead to overall healing and forgiveness for all involved.
Reconciliation consists of mending of a fractured relationship and healing, according to Shriver (2007). By having a standard point of reference, it allows for and encourages all included in a conflict to recognize the past, vocalize the injustices and rehash old circumstances in a different, safer condition allowing for the restoration of the broken or fractured relationship to begin the healing process. This process is for both parties to experience the pain and grief, show support and recognition of the experience, and validate feelings.
Reconciliation also gives the opportunity for apologies to be offered and accepted. There is a part of forgiveness where the outcome is reconciliation is fundamentally important, especially when one party is responsible for the conflict, and takes responsibility for it. This can be an extension of an olive branch and a separation from a tumultuous past to new peaceful existence. This also leads to the learning of each party and creation of new perspectives for the future between their relationships moving forward.
Staub (2000) notes that in some cases, forgiveness may be indicated by both parties, as they sometimes are both involved in the wrong doing. According to Staub (2000), forgiveness precedes reconciliation. In the process of reconciliation, forgiveness is a necessary step. Unfortunately, this step is not always achievable, or both sides may see the offense completely differently, putting forgiveness out of reach.
In conclusion, getting rid of negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes, and replacing them with positive or constructive ideas after a conflict is part of forgiveness. Reconciliation, although important to the forgiveness process, requires mutual acceptance, investment of interests and goals in the rebuilding of a peaceful relationship. Trust and appropriate attitudes, consideration of the offended’s needs and interests are also key ingredients to forgiveness and reconciliation. Shriver (2007) offers an analysis of the four interacting strands of collective forgiveness: moral judgment, forbearing revenge, empathy for the aggressor, and the intention to re-establish broken relationships.
Being open and aware of the other party’s viewpoints, and the destructive behaviors that had already inflicted pain must be nullified and the offended must have the willingness to forgive and/or reconcile. It is imperative to negate any thought of vengeance and keep the relationship on a positive, genuine path to mending broken hearts, and minds. The quest for resolving conflict and reconstructing a meaningful relationship is possible, with the right tools for forgiveness and reconciliation.
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