A podcast with Fetzer’s Love & Forgive Project and Dr. Everett Worthington, Professor of Pyschology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Dr. Worthington talks about the power of forgiveness in his own life. He names two types of forgiveness: decisional forgiveness - when we decide how we we will act toward another person in the future - and emotional forgiveness - replacing unforgiving emotions with positive emotions toward the person. He observes that these two types of forgiveness are related, but not dependent upon one another. That resonate true with my life. Many’s the time when I’ve made the decision to forgive and not been ready to do the emotional work. A few times I’ve realized I had emotionally forgiven without ever making a decision. I’ve also met folks who’ve done one side of the work but not the other, and their relationality is very different, depending on which type of forgiveness they’ve practiced or if both are together.
Dr. Worthington names 5 movements for forgiveness, using the REACH acronym.
1. Recall the hurt from the point of view of the offender. 2. Empathize with the offender. 3. Altruistic gift of forgiveness (undeserving). 4. Commit to the forgiveness you’ve experienced. 5. Hold on to that forgiveness when you doubt you’ve forgiven and the trauma experience comes back.
This podcast and a previous one are addressing forgiveness after trauma. Little forgiveness happens all the time with small misses, faults, and injuries. Those are often easier for us, unless our lives are dominated by a traumatic experience and we haven’t healed enough from that to be adept at little forgivenesses.
Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness changes us as much - perhaps more than - the initial trauma that requires forgiving. It is a process of healing. Because we go back into trauma, it can be scary - but I’d rather do that work intentionally than wait for it to ambush me in the middle of a difficult moment. Forgiveness isn’t a linear process - even with the five phases, we can go back to or be stuck in one or more. Neither is forgiveness complete with decisional forgiveness, for it is very difficult to carry out the actions we’ve decided upon unless we do the spiritual and emotional work.