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I Tried, But I Just Can't Forgive: Part II

Posted: March 3, 2015 by Rob Voyle

In the previous newsletter I described How to Forgive.
You can find it at:
Forgiveness Blog

Whenever we work on any kind of change process such as moving from a state of resentment to a state of forgiveness some part of us is likely to object, often quite strenuously, to making that transition.

To ensure that the transition is sustainable we need to:

• Discover the Objection
• Satisfy the Objection.

Notice the language. We do not want to "overcome" the objection we want to "satisfy" the objection.

When we overcome an objection we will do violence to ourselves which will further aggravate the resentment. We need to "satisfy" the objection.

So if you have a resentment that you can't resolve, take a moment and ask yourself if you, or a part of you, has an objection to forgiving...

If the answer is yes then ask that part of you that has the objection what would satisfy the objection...

Here is what I have discovered:

There are two kinds of objections:

• Safety objections, such as: "If I forgive him he will hurt me again."
• Justice objections, such as: "Its not fair, he hasn't said sorry."

Responding to Safety Objections
These need to be taken seriously. If someone is using resentment to stay safe in an abusive relationship then we need to provide them an alternative way of ensuring their safety such as getting them to a safe house in the case of domestic violence.

Resentment is actually a very draining and highly ineffective mechanism to stay safe, however I consider it unethical to teach someone to forgive if they are using resentment as their strategy to stay safe unless I have also taught them an alternative way of staying safe.

When we are in an ongoing relationship with someone such as with a boss who is a bully there are a variety of strategies to build internal resilience that is beyond the scope of this newsletter but can be found either in my book Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment or that I teach in the forgiveness workshops and retreats.

Responding to Justice Objections
There are a multitude of justice objections each requiring a slightly different strategy to resolve. Many of these are in the form of: I am waiting for some external response from the perpetrator, as in he or she needs to apologize and say "I'm sorry."

Or a response from the world that they know what a bad thing was done to me by the perpetrator. This may be in the form: "How will the world know he is a jerk, if I forgive him?"

Notice the dynamic in these situations: We are using our resentment as a strategy to get other people to change their behavior. What I have also discovered is that people will not change, at least in the direction I want, because I resent them. So resenting is a highly ineffective strategy that just makes me miserable.

If we are waiting for others to change the real question is: "How do you want to wait?" "Do you want to wait miserably or do you want to wait happily by getting on with your life?"

Bottom line: Never put your happiness in the hands of someone who has demonstrated that they can not treasure you. I recall Jesus saying something about "not casting your pearls before swine..." and he seemed to be a smart character when it came to forgiveness and dealing with offensive people.

In my experience it is impossible to satisfy the justice objections directly because, there fundamentally is no satisfaction to them. What we need to do is to discover how we are using the resentment and to recognize that it is a highly ineffective strategy, and at the same time a highly costly strategy to us in the form of ongoing personal misery.

So having reviewed your objections have you been able to satisfy them or set them aside as a highly miserable and ineffective strategy to achieve an impossible goal.

If you have resolved (not overcome) the objection then return to the previous email and go through the forgiveness steps.

If you haven't resolved the objections or you have but after doing the steps you still feel resentful then I would encourage you to attend a forgiveness workshop where we can explore in more detail some of the issues that are beyond a simple newsletter.

Forgiveness will not change your past, but it will change you and your future

At the forgiveness workshops and retreats we will:

• Create additional internal resources to provide a foundation for forgiving.
• Develop an understanding of compassion to include:
   Tenderness, Fierceness (tough love), and Mischievousness.
• Distinguish forgiveness from reconciliation.
• Discover the internal dynamics of resentment and forgiveness.
• Discover ways to satisfy and resolve objections to forgiving.
• Transform resentment into forgiveness.
• Use the forgiveness to find self-forgiveness.

Please Note:
At the retreats and workshops you will not be asked to share your story. Any process work will be done in the privacy of your own mind.

You can simply bring your resentment and leave it behind.

For training programs for teaching others how to forgive go to:
Teach Them How to Forgive.

For forgiveness retreats to personally resolve resentment go to:
Forgiveness Retreat.

With Lots of Love and Forgiveness this Lent

Rob Voyle

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Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

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