Forgiving in Context


To identify a hurt in need of forgiveness and to further your knowledge about forgiveness

Identify Your Hurt

Identify Your HurtIn order to become a more forgiving person, first identify a hurt or offense. It is best to initially choose an issue that is of moderate importance to you. If the harm you select is too traumatic and emotionally raw, you might be so distressed that it impedes your ability to effectively implement the five-step model presented in this course. On the other hand, if the harm has already been put far in your past and no longer bothers you, you probably won’t be experiencing enough emotional pain to benefit from this model. Once you have learned the 5 steps, you can apply them to a variety of hurts.

Identify Your Hurt Exercise (Worthington, 2011, pp. 7-8)

Instructions: Answer these questions to identify and better understand your hurt:

  • Describe the event.
  • Write briefly how you felt and reacted to the event in the days following it.
  • Write briefly about things related to the event that have happened since it occurred that have affected your current feelings and motivations.

Types of Forgiveness (Worthington, 2011, pp. 20, 22)

Worthington (2001) suggests that forgiveness is tied to making a decision to forgive those who harm us. That decision binds us to treat the person who hurt us as a person of value rather than acting negatively toward the person. However, Worthington also suggests that experiencing emotional forgiveness might take longer than deciding to forgive. A person might sincerely decide to forgive-holding perfectly to his or her resolve not to harm the offender-but at the same time might not fully experience emotional forgiveness. It is believed that decisional and emotional forgiveness, while sometimes occurring together, are two different processes that can occur at different times. In fact, some people can experience one and never experience the other.

An additional type of forgiveness is social/societal forgiveness. A society has social rules that help bind it together. Worthington (2001) describes the murder of his mother. Although he forgave the murderers, he still suggests that if they were to be apprehended, they would need to be imprisoned so that such a crime could not happen to other elderly women.

Deciding to Forgive Exercise

Instructions (part 1): Evaluate how strongly you desire to forgive and learn to stick by your decision.

No desireLow desireModerate desireHigh desireVery high desire

Instructions (part 2): Evaluate how strongly you want to experience the freedom of better feelings of forgiveness.

No desireLow desireModerate desireHigh desireVery high desire

Instructions (part 3): Ask yourself why your ratings aren’t lower than they are and what it would take to make your ratings higher.

Tip: If your ratings are low, be encouraged! You’re in the right place. Keep reading and you’ll likely become more desirous for change in this area.

Literary Quotes (Worthington, 2011, pp. 16-17)

Here are some quotes will help to expand your understanding of forgiveness:

Literary QuotesHistory, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.
- Maya Angelou

Hatred is the rabid dog that turns on its owner. Revenge is the raging fire that consumes the arsonist. Bitterness is the trap that snares the hunter.
- Max Lucado

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
- Malachy McCourt

We make believe we are at peace while the furies rage within, beneath the surface. There, hidden and suppressed, our hate opens the subterranean faucets of venom that will eventually infect all our relationships in ways we cannot predict. Hate left to itself, denied and hidden, leaves us in a cold hell behind insulated masks of warm conviviality.
- Lewis B. Smedes

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anyone who wants to forgive must come down from his [or her] throne. Otherwise, the attempt at forgiveness degenerates into an indictment and then we should not be surprised when the other person rejects the offer.
- Peter van Breeman

Literary Quotes Exercise (Worthington, 2011, p. 18)

Instructions: Refer to the above quotes in answering these questions:

  • What are your reactions to the quotes?
  • Write a phrase that captures your feelings about the quotes.
  • Who is doing the forgiving in each of the quotes?
  • Is there anything different when forgiveness goes both ways versus when it only goes one way?
  • How do the quotes relate to each other? What is a common theme among them? What is different between them?

Video Exercise (Worthington, 2011, p. 18)

Here’s a video of a famous example of forgiveness from Les Miserables. Watch the following video and answer the questions.

  • Why did the bishop forgive Valjean?
  • What, if anything, did the bishop have to gain by forgiving?
  • How do you think Valjean felt upon this act of forgiveness?

Next Step (Worthington, 2011, p. 19)

Describe a classic story of forgiveness, maybe from a children’s story, religious passage, or movie plot. Explain why the offender committed the transgression and why the victim chose to forgive the offender. How did the act of forgiveness benefit their situation?

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