I’m in a class that is talking about forgiveness and I came across the following thoughts. I think it’s powerful and that it could be useful to those of you who are having a hard time with empathy and compassion.
The word ‘compassion’ comes from the Latin cum passio and it means to “suffer with.” Compassion is crucial to forgiveness. We are usually close to those who hurt us the most. We know enough about them to be able to tell their story to some extent. The incident that hurt you was not an isolated event, disconnected from the others in their lives. It can be a huge benefit to you to be able to trace their events that lead up to them hurting you. It can also be eye opening to see how their lives might look as a result of what caused your pain. It has a strong potential to lead you to the place where you can lay down your armor, build an alter, sacrifice the last bit of you, and walk away in freedom.
In ‘Forgiveness Is a Choice’, Robert D. Enright (2001) suggests that you tell the story of the person who hurt you. Here are some suggested considerations when telling their story:
1. What was life like for the offender when growing up? Because most hurts occur
at the hands of people close to us, we usually know something of their life his-
tory. Try to enter the offender’s world and describe three or four things about his
or her past that may have contributed to vulnerability. Be careful not to confuse
forgiving with excusing. The person’s hardships should not become your own.
2. At the time of the hurtful event, what was life like for the person? Try to imag-
ine what he or she may have been thinking and feeling. Was he or she under
considerable pressure? Was vulnerability present, too?
3. Tell the story of your relationship with the person in a broader sense than the
offense itself. How long had you know the person? Had you shared good
times? Try to think of at least three times the person showed good judgment
or strong character.
4. Write down any impressions of how the offender may be worse off now than
are you as a result of the painful event. What is life like for him or her because
of what happened?
5. What is the person like apart from the offense? Forgiving does not necessarily
mean that you must welcome the person back as a spouse, employer, or close
friend. Merely try to see the person as a member of the human community
with intrinsic value. Review your answers to the previous questions and
describe what makes the person human.
6. Has your view of the person changed in any way as a result of answering
these questions? Is there anything you must still do to deepen or broaden your
story of the person?