KNOWING THE 4 TYPES OF FORGIVENESS AND HOW WE USE THEM IN OUR LIVES THROUGH COUPLES THERAPY IN NASHVILLE
Most of us are taught at a very early age that forgiveness is a mandate for healthy lives and healthy relationships. However, most of us are not taught there are different forms of forgiveness, and there are times when forgiveness is not the most appropriate solution. In a fantastic book by Janis Abrams-Springs entitled, “How Can I Forgive You?” she walks us through the 4 different types of forgiveness and what they can mean for us. It is a phenomenal approach to understanding how we, alone, can provide a more authentic and healing opportunity for difficult circumstances we have experienced.
She gives name to the 4 types of forgiveness as:
REFUSING TO FORGIVE
Here is how she describes them:
- She writes, “Even if the offender ignores your pain, you may be so frightened of his anger or rejection, so desperate to preserve the relationship, that you’re willing to do anything—even forgive him. But this forgiveness is premature, superficial, undeserved. I call it cheap because you offer it before you process the impact of the violation, ask anything of the offender, or think through what lies ahead.”(p. 9)
REFUSING TO FORGIVE
- She describes it this way, “You may refuse to forgive (1) when you want to punish an unremorseful offender; (2) when you associate forgiveness with reconciliation or compassion, neither of which you’re prepared to offer; and (3) when you use retaliatory rage to protest a violation and see anything more conciliatory—particularly forgiveness—as a sign of weakness. Not Forgiving makes you feel powerful and in control, but it’s a reactive, often rigid and compulsive response to violation that cuts you off from life and leaves you stewing in your own hostile juices.”(p. 9)
- She summarizes this very difficult process this way, “Acceptance is a gutsy, life-affirming response to violation when the person who hurt you is unavailable or unrepentant. It asks nothing of anything but you. Unlike Cheap Forgiveness or Refusing to Forgive, it is based on a personal decision to take control of your pain, make sense of your injury, and carve out a relationship with the offender that works for you.”(p. 53)
- She says, “Genuine Forgiveness is essentially interpersonal. It requires the heartfelt participation of both of you. Here are it’s 3 core interpersonal features:
- Genuine Forgiveness is a Transaction
- Genuine Forgiveness is Conditional
- Genuine Forgiveness is a Transfer of Vigilance”(p. 124)
There is obviously much more to say about all of these areas, but the key is to consider that forgiveness is far more unique and complicated than we ever imagined. Once we begin the process of exploring the ways we have been “forgiving” in the past, we can come to a greater awareness of how and why our relationships are shaped in their particular manner.
USING NASHVILLE COUPLES THERAPY TO EXPLORE FORGIVENESS
In every relationship, especially long-term relationships, there will be hurt and pain that is caused between the two parties. There is no way around this reality. More so than learning to “never do it again,” is a more central component of learning how to forgive in a way that is honorable and transformative for you both. If you are looking for ways to better process pain and forgiveness with your partner, then feel free to reach out to Chris Roberts at Two Trees Counseling Nashville. Chris can be reached at (615) 800-9260 and at email@example.com.