Learning to forgive...the seventh characteristic of authentic love...the gift that brings inner peace and freedom, that repairs broken bridges in our mid-life interpersonal relationships – whether they are to be matrimonial, with siblings,parents-children related, among relatives and friends or whether they are colleague-related.
Forgiveness, a psychological and a spiritual process that
disciplines our personal ego – whether or not you have
committed the offence or not; it’s a journey towards
reconciliation - whenever reconciliation is possible,
but mostly into bringing inner peace and freedom, as
you will soon discover.
To forgive is to repair a broken bridge between your
offender and yourself in order to avoid isolation. It's
an important step in your mid-life journey instigating
harmony in your relationships.
Forgiveness isn't just a ritual for Christians as more
and more psychologists, matrimonial counsellors promotes
the need for forgiveness in our relationships.
The subject of this encounter will be divided into two
important categories identified under the following themes:
A) Show me how to forgive my offender
B) As an offender, show me how to ask forgiveness,
without feeling humiliated. I will discuss this
second category in my next encounter.
In both situations there are stages of discernment and
preparation that I will elaborate to help reach these two
I’ve inspired myself of the writings of Psychologist
Jean Mombourquette, of Pastor Gary Chapman and
Sister Marie-Thérèse Nadeau to prepare this encounter –
three authors that I highly recommend.
Describing forgiveness is challenging; the
interpretations we make of this characteristic of love
as we find its definition based on everyone's personal
No matter the experience, forgiveness is an act of good will
that implicates both the spiritual and the psycho-therapeutic
elements of healing.
There are important prerequisites most necessary, in order
to bring to full achievement this inner-self inspection-
journey or, spiritually speaking, inner-pilgrimage. Don't
feel discouraged if you feel unable to forgive someone on
the spot of the moment, it doesn't mean that you are unable
to do so. Just like the bereavement journey, there are
stages of personal growth.
Forgiveness is an invitation of love towards the worthless
for the purpose of inner-freedom. How well do you forgive?
Take a minute and read this poem translated in English from
the French that I translate to be When my heart refuses to
forgive... and to be found in Jean Mombourquette,PH.D.’s
book entitled: Comment pardonner?
(How do we forgive?)
When my heart refused to forgive...
My heart is bitter and battling;
he promises never to love.
For his sake, and for him to heal,
I beg him to forgive;
He remains cold, silent, non available.
I exposed my heart to the sun’s caresses,
like I would do so for a frail and chilly plant.
I watered my heart with the fine tenderness
That brings the rain and with warm presence.
Just like I would for the feverish and pouting child,
I rocked him, I comforted him
And I told him stories about passed loving moments.
My heart wants to believe again;
Frightened and shy, he slowly opens.
He hesitates between the desire to love again
And the need to protect his wounded pride.
He now feels his pain and he cries;
He’s been ashamed; he’s humiliated.
His suffering is the only path
that can lead him to forgive and to be forgiven.
Is there any other path?
WHEN IS FORGIVENESS NEEDED?
“Humans are truly free – free to love, free to hate and
because of this freedom, people sometimes make wrong
decisions and walk in the wrong direction. When they do,
they hurt themselves and those around them. Forgiveness
is necessary in human relationships because our freedom
almost always takes a self-centred path. Our default
mode is what is best for me. We make decisions for
our own good event at the expense of others.”
Forgiveness is given in a situation where there is
a justified offence against another person. If you've
been given a fine for speeding or for drinking
& driving; if you failed an exam because of your
lack of study or non-attendance in class; if your
boss catches you for always been late at work; the
consequences are soon or later to be expected;
there’s no forgiveness to be receive or to give here.
On the other hand, justice is not the only solution
to all offences.
According to Gary Chapman,
“To live is to have the potential of hurting others and
being hurt. Without forgiveness, we are left only with
justice when wrong is done. If justice were ruled out
today to everyone, most of the populace would end up in
In more intimate relationships a thousand and one
frustrating or contradicting incidents happens for all
kinds of silly reasons...we repress those frustrations
when in reality the answer should be found in our ability
There could be some situations that can become irritating
when constantly repeated. Forgiveness is needed when treason,
lack of loyalty and commitment between partners or friends
hurts the relationship; when people are treated with sarcasm,
with mockery; when people are hurt through acts of violence,
acts of sexual abuse, with acts of psychological or verbal
aggressiveness, or any other form of offensive behaviour.
there’s a breach in the relationship, a broken bridge, a
serious hurt. More than often, these offences awakens
repressed hurting scars and creates more of them in our
personality (the shadow); in these cases healing is
As you can see from the examples illustrated above, an
offence must be intentional. The
offender wants to hurt the relationship by using: action,
omission, breach of promise, lying or using judgments,
through gossiping or blackmailing, spreading ironic
rumours, through humiliation or even by being cruel.
The victim’s self image is injured with either guilt
if they are introverted and feel unable to reply to
the offender, or with the intention of revenge or
attacks, whether physical or psychological, if the
victim is extroverted.
FORGIVENESS,(meaning to give over and above), is
challenging; it requires courage and good will; it
isn’t done spontaneously. Our primary reaction
consists of returning evil for evil – we are prone
to revenge – an instinct we must overcome.
Forgiveness calls both parties (offender and offended)
to reach the best of themselves. Forgiveness is a risk,
but a necessary one, because we have no control over
someone's freedom. It’s a chance we take in order
to continue living. The offender not only hurts others
but also hurts himself as he cut himself out of a
relationship – and depending on the degree of the offence
- he also cut himself out of his community.
A world without forgiveness is unhealthy. Anger, fear and
aggressiveness, guilt etc...is considered destructive
energy that can impact our physical and/or psychological
health, not to mention our rapports with our surroundings.
In a world without forgiveness, there’s no end to evilness
and to violence.
War begins in the heart of a human being. You will discover
that through forgiveness (forgiveness requires a
psychological effort with the assistance of the All Mighty's
grace)the offender is granted a chance for a new beginning,
a chance to live again...otherwise consider yourself living
in constant bitterness, anger with part of your inner self
that is damaged by the evil behaviour of your offender.
“Can the increase of suicide in our society may be correlated
to lack of forgiveness? In a true living-experience of
forgiveness the offender learns that he’s not the rooting
source of his life – but on the contrary it’s been given –
for give as the one-to-be-forgiven. Life begins to manifest
itself in the offender having been forgiven as he’s free
from the weight of his past and can confront the future
without anxiety. Refusing to forgive, and to revenge is to
say to your offender: You are not free to exist.’’
For all the reasons above, forgiveness requires a great deal
of maturity. Having to forgive does not take away the
offender’s responsibilities. We might have to make
reproaches, to educate – but using the right intonation to
make sure it isn’t interpreted as revenge or a rule of
justice to be earned is the secret in touching the offender’s
On the other hand, the offender must acknowledge his
responsibility, must not lock himself in a non-forgivable
past to the extent of being unable to open up about it. In
his situation; it’s necessary that he must bring himself in
front of the offended with courage, and must ask for
forgiveness. Again, and I repeat, the offender must be ready
to accept the responsibility of his behaviour and to
Finally, the offender must learn to be merciful towards
himself – whom is human – and to forgive himself. We can
spend time elaborating on this subject, but space is running
out and I will now elaborate on the twelve steps to
forgiveness. I will elaborate ten of these twelve steps in
this first encounter.
There are two sides to forgiveness:
a) the forgiveness we must give
b) the forgiveness we must receive from people we have
Whether we like it or not, we are all offenders at one time
or another. In both situations, there are steps that we can
follow that will help us in this most difficult journey of
Before we elaborate on these steps, it’s important to
discern faulty requests of forgiveness. Just like in any
low self esteem related concerns
with or misinterpretations of offences can get in the way.
A)Faulty requests of forgiveness:
For just about anything ex.: accidentally stepping on
someone’s foot or for interrupting someone in a conversation.
In those situations there’s no offence; there’s no
intentional hurt made to anyone; you simply excuse yourself
politely; you don’t ask for forgiveness.
For non intentional mistakes causing uneasy feelings to
others without malicious intentions. We have no power on
other people’s feelings. There’s no offence there.
Asking forgiveness on behalf of somebody else. We don’t
forgive on behalf of someone for his offence. We don’t
take someone else’s responsibility for his offence,
emotions as we have no power on other people’s inner
B)Superficial requests of forgiveness
Forgiveness requested rapidly without regret or guilt, simply
for the purpose of moving on. We want to find peace A.S.A.P.
without effort or analysis of the situation. Ex.: Children
will request an apology to avoid embarrassing questions on
behalf of parents. Politician’s will apologies this way to
regain voters’ trust and be re-elected.
Blackmailing forgiveness – particularly in
situations of infidelity where the offender as
opened up about the truth with transparency and now
requests the forgiveness of the partner to be levied
from the feeling of guilt.
Forgiveness is not imposed – you must respect the
other person’s choice of accepting, delaying or
either refusing his forgiveness.
Compulsive requests of forgiveness –
Anxiety is the source of this compulsiveness. These
people constantly request forgiveness to reduce their
level of anxiety. These people will often request
forgiveness and put themselves down. The intention behind
forgiveness consists not of humiliating yourself, but in
recognizing your offence with humility and regret.
Conditional requests of forgiveness
engenders lack of conviction, and confusion...those
situations will create more disappointment and anger
towards the victim. ex. “I am willing to admit my
mistakes; you must be willing to accept yours”.
Forgiveness is not an I.O.U.;it is an act of gratuity
that cannot be imposed upon others. The healing stages
leading to forgiveness (according to Jean Mombourquette)
1. You must make the decision never to revenge
and you must choose to put an end to any
offensive behaviour that could be
This is particularly important if the offence is life
threatening, humiliating or if the offender wants to
make you feel excessive guilt. Your first
responsibility is to protect yourself; it’s your right.
In situations where you must have recourse to justice –
(any form of abuse, violence towards you or your siblings,
in situations where children are endangered: ex. Drug or
alcohol addictions or any other dysfunctional related
behaviour such as anorexia...Treatment and security is
requested. Here’s an example.
The late John-Paul II went to the prison and visited
his offender who attacked him; he forgave him for his
wrong doing, questioned the motive of his behaviour.
Never, for the sake of forgiveness, did he request
that he’d be released from justice. Agça (his assassinate)
had to face the consequence of his behaviour.
Jean Mombourquette stresses the importance of this.
2.Acknowledge the hurt and your inner poverty.
Your first task, according to Mombourquette,
is to re-assess the offence that was made
against you. You cannot forgive if you don’t
acknowledge having been hurt. If need be, get
During this stage defensive mechanisms will kick in,
to protect you and to help you survive through the primitive reactions of painful hurts.
We’ve mentioned some of these reactions in our encounters
on mid-life losses
I will simply enumerate a few:
a) Denial (for the purpose of minimizing the impact
of the offence)
b) Dependence on substances such as drugs, alcohol,
c) Anger and the need to revenge
d) Returning the guilt and the anxiety towards self
e) The request for control or power (incapability to
acknowledge the humiliation attributed to the
offence; awakens a scar of hurt and humiliation
from the past.)
f) Playing victim
g) Under the mask of perfectionism the victim imposes
himself an obligation of forgiveness in order to
protect his fragile persona image.
The victim must not remain in this state of emotional
and cognitive resistance but must overcome the hurt
and one way to do so, would be to:
3.Share your feeling of hurt with someone you trust.
Without spending too much time on this theme, I wish to
stress a very important point. When you can open up to
the offender and speak-up about how you feel, it helps
to clear the circumstantial motives and consequences
surrounding the behaviour. But, to do so, you must be
prepared. Don’t confront on the spot while still fully
You may fantasize a form of response and revenge if it helps
you to vent, but not in front of your offender. Do not make
it your rule.
Pray for inspiration to help you in preparing to meet
the offender and when you are ready, talk with calmness
explaining the impact of the behaviour and how you feel,
asking for some enlightenment.
Talking to people that have hurt us in the past is not
always possible. Through therapy, the role-playing of
the offender - asking for forgiveness and requesting
for the desire to re-establish the relationship - as
helped many to forgive a parent, a friend or a sibling.
When you are dealing with an offender that refuses to
acknowledge his error and repent, we entrust this
offender to the justice of the All Mighty.
Ex.: “Lord, in my weakness, I entrust in your mercy
__________whom as offended me in such a way; may your
will be done in such a way that the harm this person
has caused may turn out from wrong to the best.”
4. Fully identify your loss in order to better proceed
with the stages of bereavement.
I will not spend more time on this stage, instead I will refer you to my encounter on
I don’t know about you, but to me, this the most challenging
stage in regards to forgiveness. Not only do you feel that
this emotion is taboo, but you also have this boiled anger
because the offender created this emotion within you.
How many times, for instance, have we been provoked until we
were blue in the face from inner pressure, and when we
finally vent, people will make fun of us or even try to make
us feel guilty because we have lost our temper and self
control! I have intentionally shared this to point out some
confusion that we may have in regards to anger and
resentment, in the feelings of revenge, of hatred.
In irritability situations like we may encounter day-in and
day-out, our spontaneous emotional reactions are perfectly
normal. We need to open up, not to repress them.
Numerous, are the circumstances in matrimonial and family
relationships. We must be careful, not to confuse these
anger situations with hatred, resentment, or any other
strong emotion that creates intentional hurt going as far
as to destroy him/her. We need to acknowledge our lack of
self-control, confess them; recognize your feeling of guilt
in order to be truthful or authentic with the other.
When you learn to tame your anger and use it as a friend
that could help you to fight for justice.
Ex.: When Jesus cleanses the Temple of Jerusalem and drives
out those who were selling things there, he wasn’t
exactly smiling! When he found the merchants in the
Temple, what did he do? He builds himself a whip of
cords and overthrows the tables of exchange saying
this House is a house of prayer and you have made
it a den of robbers! Luke 19,45.
Anger is also destructive when turned into physical
violence against, someone, an object or an animal or
even against yourself. Many psychosomatic illnesses can
be the result of strong emotional repressed energy.
Ex. : rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, cancer...
6. Forgive yourself.
Here’s another challenging one! According to
Mombourquette, this is the turning point of forgiveness.
All forgiveness granted to others and even to the
All Mighty must first be granted through the process of
self-forgiveness. If you sustain hatred against yourself,
you neutralize the effort of forgiveness towards others.
The inner peace and harmony
peace and harmony
What are the obstacles that interfere in your ability to forgive the other?
In many cases people are unable to forgive themselves
either for the impact of their behaviour on others,
for being naive, for exposing themselves to hurting
situations. They feel shame and guilt for things of the
We need to recognize that we are not gods; on the contrary
we are limited and weak individuals and we must forgive
ourselves for considering ourselves otherwise and imposing
expectations much too high for our limits. I will not
elaborate any further on this stage but on the contrary
will let you visit the following links:
perfectionism low self esteem
Here's a poem I translated for you and chosen from Jean Mombourquette's book Comment pardonner?/How do I forgive"
I want to forgive myself>
For trying to access unreachable stars;>
For being fragile and>
For being ashamed of my pain;>
For being self-accusing in regards to my misery and>
For maintaining the desire to unattainable perfection,>
For making myself responsible before my offender;>
For not paying attention to the cries my heart and>
for nourishing self-hurting accusations;>
for not having been able to foresee everything;>
for hating myself and for refusing to be
for feeling unable to forgive others;>
In all summary, to forgive myself for simply being human.>
7.Begin to understand your offender.
It’s evident that you cannot do this without first having
overcome the stage of self-forgiveness as well as the stage
of taming your anger and your urge to revenge; this doesn’t
happen overnight. Understanding your ex-husband’s offending
behaviour, where he comes from, his motives with a more
lucid mind will help you to forgive and journey on.
Forgiveness doesn't excuse the offence nor obligates you
to forgive with blindfolds Understanding him will help
you discover things you’ve ignored up until now. I will
elaborate much further about this when I present the
matrimonial interpersonal relationship concerns.
For example, it was easier for me to forgive my father’s
tantrums and authoritative behaviour when, discussing
with an aunt of mine, I’ve learn how struggling the
relationship used to be between my father and my
unknown grandfather; work, very little rewards and
encouragement, stinginess are factors that profoundly
marked my father’s personality and self image.
Trying to understand the offender means to quit blaming
him. Remember that a portion of the blame you attribute
to others are reflections of your own acknowledged
weaknesses. Try to find the positive intention behind the
offender’s behaviour: whether it’s a rebellious child
wanting to prove his power to adults or the suicide person
who wants to put an end to suffering. Once we understand
the motive, we can help the person reinforce that desire
using more appropriate approaches.
Some offences can be non-intentional such as the hurt you
might have experimented from the result of your parents’
divorce. It helps to forgive when you learn to put
situations back into perspective.
8. Find life meaning to this hurtful situation.
We nourish stereotyped views of life’s contradicting
incidents. An offense hurts and disturbs your everyday
ideas, opinions, convictions...Learn to question the
reason for the offence. What can I learn from this
Ex.: you could have learned to become more responsible,
more understanding towards others having shared the
same offence, you can be more opened to others needs,
less self-centred, more wise etc...
You are in a stage of mid-life...sole-searching for a
meaning to all your concerns...This is the heart of your
mid-life journey...this is where you have an important
decision to make...chose to either turn your transform the
life-hurting situation that leaded you into the mid-life
transition into a benefiting situation that will open up
your future, or you can chose to refuse forgiveness and
remain stuck in this phase of life permanently. Your
ability to forgive is the key to either a bright coming
future in opposition to a future remaining in transition.
In this phase, you not only learn to know yourself, but you
also journey further in the learning of self-acceptance.
Have you ever truly experienced the fundamental experience
of real forgiveness; unconditional, that regains your true
inner-freedom. No words can explain this gift of gratuity,
of peace after having been released from guilt, humiliation.
It’s like regaining your human dignity again. This is the
fruit of the given grace of the All Mighty. No human effort
can bring this gift of freedom; it’s a gift of God -
the real God
not our faulty images of God we create based upon our living experiences.
9.Stop harassing yourself about wanting to forgive.
When you feel unable to forgive, let God do it within you
at His own time and pace. He’s not limited by your human
forgiveness. His mercy is not a reward for being a good
forgiver...He knows we cannot do it without His help, so
why fearing is support? What do you have to lose in
requesting for His assistance to forgive others as well
as to our self.
Forgiveness is the bridge over the troubled waters caused
by offences - whether they are others or ours. We've
meditated on the importance of forgiveness towards others
and as mentioned previously, no forgiveness is possible
towards others if you don't learn to forgive yourself for
the offences performed against others. Just like the
offender must request from the offended, you to will have
to learn to do the same, and in our next encounter you
will learn the stages to get there.In the meantime meditate
on the message of this YouTube videoclip.
I had this videoclip from Youtube in honour of Psychologist
Jean Mombourquette, o.m.i. PH.D. - a man of inspiration for
he passed away on August 28th 2011. May he R.I.P.
by Jean Mombourquette,
PH.D.Novalis, C.P.990, Outremont, QC Canada
Copyright 1992 Novalis Université St-Paul, Ottawa, et
Éditions du Centurion,
22 cours Albert 1er,
Demander pardon sans s'humilier
par Jean Mombourquette et Isabelle d'Aspremont,
Copyright Université St-Paul,Ottawa,
Pardonner l'impardonnable par Marie-Thérèse Nadeau, Copyright 1998 Médiaspaul 3965, boul. Henri-Bourassa Est
Montréal, QC, H1H 1L1 Canada