Psychological Self-Help

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If you are thinking that many if not most people, who have been hurtful, insulting,
and very unfair, will not be tearfully apologetic and asking for forgiveness. I think
you are right. So the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission approach
(involving both the offender and the victim) may frequently fail to work well. In that
case, the person who has been mistreated has to learn to forgive without much help
from the offender.
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the
closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
-----Helen Keller
Spring (2004) agrees with Goboda-Madikizela that forgiveness is arrived at more
easily when there can be meaningful interaction between the hurter and the hurtee.
If the offender can be involved, cooperative, contrite, apologetic, and interested in
earning a better relationship, the task of forgiveness is much easier. In the right
conditions, Spring believes “genuine forgiveness” can be achieved. But when the
offender refuses to apologize or take responsibility for his/her hurtful role in causing
the behavior or when the offended person feels the hurt is so terrible that it can’t be
forgiven, making genuine forgiveness impossible, Spring recommends that another
approach, called “acceptance,” that is better than lingering animosity or holding
on to the anger. Acceptance is much less desirable than forgiveness but it is better
than “phony forgiveness” and better than refusing to forgive at all. In acceptance
the anger and hurt is expressed somewhat by the victim and their calm is restored to
some degree in four steps: (1) The injured person makes sense, preferably with
some help from the offender, of the offender’s behavior and of their own reactions
and behavior. The victim focuses on why the event hurt so much psychologically.
Both may express regrets and grief about the decline of their relationship. Both
identify what they need the other person to do so that some forgiveness is possible,
making life easier. (2) The hurt/offended party tries to cut down on the time he/she
spends being distressed by mentally re-living the hurtful events. (3) Instead, the
hurt person tries to understand the life history of the hurtful person, the problems
the offender had, and the personal short-comings that contributed to the offensive
behavior (Why did he/she do that?). (4) Finally, the person trying to forgive should
work on systematically “putting the experience behind them,” so life is back to an
acceptably calm state.   
Trying to get an understanding of the hurtful events by yourself (no help from the
offender) may be hard but it is possible for some people, partly depending on the
victim’s personality, how contrite the abuser becomes, and how badly the victim was
hurt, etc. Frequently, people who know about the situation push the person who was
hurt or wronged to forgive the wrong-doer. On the other hand, others will urge you
to punish or “get even” with the person who hurt you. That might feel good for a
moment, but…deciding how to handle hurtful situations is difficult and very
important. Please don’t make the decision to strike back impulsively. 
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