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Forgiving That Person—Or Not: Your Personal Decision

Bob Baugher

You saw this title and thought you would read this article because you are dealing with the issue of forgiveness right now in your life. I am not going to tell you, “You must forgive.” Instead, I’m suggesting that you look at a number of contributing factors that go into making the decision to forgive or not forgive.

There is someone out there who did you wrong. You are thinking of him or her right now and likely you are having some degree of discomfort as you do so. You would rather put this person out of your mind. In fact, you may feel it a waste of time to even think of this person. Yet, whether you like it or not, this person and what he or she did (or failed to do) comes up in your thinking from time to time, whether you want to or not.

One of the ways to look at this issue is to answer statements from a so-called forgiveness scale developed by six researchers. Respond to the following 12 statements. Then add up your score from the two subscales: Avoidance Motivations & Revenge Motivations.

Forgiveness Scale

(Transgression-Related Interpersonal Motivations Scale--12-Item Form TRIM-12)

McCullough, Rachal, Sandage, Worthington, Brown, & Hight (1998)

For the following questions, please indicate your current thoughts and feelings about the person who hurt you. Use the following scale to indicate your agreement with each of the questions.

1= Strongly Disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = Neutral 4 = Agree 5 = Strongly Agree

1. I’ll make him/her pay.

2. I keep as much distance between us as possible.

3. I wish that something bad would happen to him/her.

4. I live as if he/she doesn’t exist, isn’t around.

5. I don’t trust him/her.

6. I want him/her to get what he/she deserves.

7. I find it difficult to act warmly toward him/her.

8. I avoid him/her.

9. I’m going to get even.

10. I cut off the relationship with him/her.

11. I want to see him/her hurt and miserable.

12. I withdraw from him/her.

Scoring Instructions

Avoidance Motivations:

Add up the scores for items 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 12 (scores will range from 7-35)

Revenge Motivations:

Add up the scores for items 1, 3, 6, 9, and 11. , , , , (scores will range from 5-25)

Do you have a score for both subscales? For the Avoidance Motivations subscale your scores will range from a low of 7 to a high of 35. The Revenge Motivations subscale can range from 5-25. Do not attempt to compare the two. Instead, interpret the scores by seeing how close they are to the maximum. For example, if your Avoidance score is greater than, say, 27, then you can conclude that one of the reasons for not forgiving this person is related to your feelings of wanting to avoid this person. Similarly, if your score on the second subscale is greater than 19, then getting revenge is a factor in you not wishing to forgive.

As you know, much has been written on forgiveness. Google it and you’ll get nearly ½ billion hits. More than 40,000 books have been written on forgiveness with reasons, suggestions, steps, and guidance on the forgiveness process.

Steps in forgiveness involve:

1. Feeling victimized by another person or persons

2. Undergoing a change in negative emotions toward the person

3. Letting go of the negative emotions around this person.

Most experts suggest that there are three types of forgiveness:

1. Exoneration—letting go of the past, choosing to live in the present, and starting with a clean slate.

2. Forbearance—you forgive but never forget. This is because the person has given you a half-hearted apology and/or blames part (not all) of their behavior on some other factor or person. You move on from the grudges, but continue to be watchful.

3. Release—you choose to let go of the burden weighing you down and release your negative feelings whether you continue in a relationship with the person or not.

In conclusion, here are four things to keep in mind regarding forgiveness:

1. A key feature of forgiveness is making the choice to refuse being a victim while also releasing negative feelings toward this person or persons whether they deserve it or not.

2. The process of forgiveness takes time.

3. Most people who forgave stated that it was, for them, the right thing to do; but they decided to do it in their own way and in their own time.

4. Let no one encourage nor discourage you from forgiveness. It is your decision.

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