Can You Forgive Someone Who Has Not Directly Hurt You?

 / 

, ,
can you forgive someone who has not directly hurt you

Have you ever had to forgive someone who did not hurt you directly, but rather hurt someone close to you? Did you ever forgive someone who was indirectly unfair to you?

Often people ask if they can go ahead and forgive someone who was not directly unjust to them.

Here are some examples:

  • My daughter was bullied at school. It is up to her whether or not she will forgive. I cannot do that for her because I was not the one injured.
  • I am upset with Politicians X and Y. They have not, personally, injured me and so I am not able to forgive them.
  • My great-grandparents were oppressed by certain laws in their country. My great-grandparents are now deceased. It really was up to them to forgive or not forgive. I now cannot stand in their place and forgive those oppressors.

These kinds of issues can become a struggle for people primarily because they are used to thinking of forgiveness this way: When I, personally, have been offended by someone, then I can go ahead and forgive if I wish to do so.

In other words, it is assumed that no one else can enter this forgiveness process unless they, too, were directly injured by the other person. Yet, thinking in this 21st century has emerged that challenges this conventional set of ideas. The approach comes to us from Trudy Govier (2002), a philosopher in Canada, who has written the book, Forgiveness, and Revenge.

In that book, Dr. Govier talks about primary, secondary, and tertiary forgiveness. 

Related: Forgiving and Letting Go Those Who Have Hurt You

Primary Forgiveness 

This is a commonly understood approach. I have been directly hurt by a person and so it is my prerogative to forgive or not.

By this, I mean that the injured person can decide to give up resentment and to offer goodness of some kind to the offending person, without excusing, necessarily reconciling, and without abandoning a quest for justice.

forgive someone
Can You Forgive Someone Who Has Not Directly Hurt You?

Secondary Forgiveness 

This occurs when you are hurt because of a person’s actions toward a loved one. In other words, the mother truly is offended and hurt when someone bullies her daughter in school. It is secondary in the sense that the mother was not directly bullied.

Yet, the fact that she is resentful and legitimately so because of the actions toward her daughter, the mother then can go ahead and forgive the one who bullies. It is important to note that the mother is not forgiving the one who bullies on behalf of the daughter. It still is up to the daughter to offer primary forgiveness or not. It is the daughter’s choice. The mother’s forgiveness does not substitute for the daughter’s response.

Tertiary Forgiveness 

This occurs when an even more distant person engages in unjust actions. Suppose Person A is very upset with a political decision that goes against his philosophies of life. Those decisions were made politically far from Person A’s home. The politicians do not even know Person A and likely they never have met.

Even so, if Person A is offended by the politicians’ actions, this is a legitimate forum for Person A to begin the forgiveness process if he so chooses? Why? It is because there is an injustice, directly affecting Person A, even though those actions by the politicians are indirect and not personal actions toward him.

Related: 8 Reasons Why You Should Forgive The People Who Hurt You

Another kind of tertiary forgiveness occurs when historical events are long past, had a direct influence on one’s own ethnic group, but not on the self. It is here that people reason that they must let the past alone and dismiss forgiveness because the current generation cannot even identify those involved, either as perpetrators or victims.

As in the case above, if a contemporary person still is feeling offended by people’s actions in the distant past toward one’s own group, it is rationally justified to forgive precisely because there is resentment over an unjust incident. In this case, it may be more difficult to forgive because there are no concretely-identified people to forgive.

Yet, the actions did involve real people acting in truly unjust ways and so one can now, in the present, offer forgiveness toward those persons as persons, even if they cannot be identified.

It is even possible for one’s group to forgive other groups that are currently acting unjustly or acted this way in the past, even in the distant past (Enright et al., 2016). We will leave the subtleties of group forgiveness for another time since this is not the central focus of this essay.

If secondary or tertiary forgiving were impossible, this would leave people now with much-unresolved resentment, even hatred, that could chip away at their well-being. The resentment could be displaced onto one’s partner or onto one’s children or co-workers.

Want to know more about the importance of forgiving someone? Check this video out below!

Even though those causing the resentment may have long passed away, the resentment lives on. Forgiveness can be a way of freeing oneself from the indirect actions of others that happened recently or toward people of the distant past who still are having an influence on one’s own happiness in the present.

References:

Enright, R.D., Lee, Y.R., Hirshberg, M.J., Litts, B.K., Schirmer, E.B., Irwin, A.J., Klatt, J., Hunt, J., & Song, J.Y. (2016). Examining group forgiveness: Conceptual and empirical issues. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 22, 153-162. DOI: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/10.1037/pac0000153

Govier, T. (2002). Forgiveness and revenge. New York: Routledge.

Written By Robert Enright
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
can you forgive someone who has not directly hurt you pin
Can You Forgive Someone Who Has Not Directly Hurt You?

— Share —

— About the Author —



Up Next

The Faces Of Fury: 5 Different Types of Anger

The Faces Of Fury: Different Types of Anger

Everyone feels anger at some point, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry, you know. However, there are different types of anger, and some of those types are not healthy. While some of these types of rage can feel annoying, some are straight out dangerous. Let’s explore the different styles of anger and what they mean.

Anger

When we think of anger we often think of raised voices and aggressive behaviour. There are however different styles of anger, therefore different ways in which we experience and communicate our anger.

If we don’t understand our anger or communicate and deal with it appropriately we will either explode or implode. Neither can be good for us or our relationships. Here are some different types of anger.



Up Next

7 Surprising Facts About Boredom: Learn The Science Of Ennui

Fascinating Facts About Boredom That You Must Know

Do you ever feel like you’re never able to sit still? Boredom may seem like a simple inconvenience, but many surprising facts about boredom might change how you view those periods of listlessness.

The Science Behind Being Bored

Ennui means boredom in French, and it involves complex neural processes. Research has shown that it activates brain regions associated with self-control and planning for the future.

If you find yourself feeling bored quite often, then, without further ado, let’s learn about the facts about being bored.

Related:



Up Next

4 Secrets Of Nonverbal Eye Contact

Secrets Of Nonverbal Eye Contact

When it comes to body language cues, nonverbal eye contact is as crucial as facial expressions and body movements. This article is going to talk about the secrets and importance of nonverbal eye contact.

KEY POINTS

Research on nonverbal communication shows the eyes are a complex and important communication channel.

Our eyes play an important part in communicating emotions through facial expressions.

The eyes may indicate sexual interest and the depth of love and attraction.

When we think of body language — nonverbal communication — we immediately focus on facial e



Up Next

How to Read Someone’s ‘Digital Body Language’ and Improve Your Dating Game

How To Read Digital Body Language? Important Things

Gone are the days when catching someone’s eye across the room, or brushing someone’s arm, were the main ways of communicating interest and feelings. Now dating is online, and digital body language (DBL) is becoming important when it comes to connecting with potential partners.

In this article, we will explain the importance and how to read digital body language. Are you ready to get into the world of online dating and relationships? Let’s go!

What is digital body language?

All physical behaviors which express thoughts, intentions, and feelings are called body language. This includes facial expressions, gestures, eye movement, touch, even body posture.

Similarly the te



Up Next

How To Be Your Best Self: 4 Hacks To Set Effective Self Development Goals That Actually Work

Hacks To Set Effective Self Development Goals

The hardest battle you’ll ever face is the one between your current and future self. To become a better person, you have to get rid of your inner weaknesses. The best way to do this is to set self development goals for yourself.

It’s a little hard to see the path to self-improvement milestones. It’s not as simple as waking up one day and being a better person.

It takes time and reflection, and a lot of people need help to get started. If you’re looking for a sign to start your self-improvement journey, this is it! It’s never too late, so let’s explore together!

Understanding Self Development Goals



Up Next

9 Signs You Are A Good Person — Even If You Don’t Feel Like One

Clear Signs You Are A Good Person

Being a good person isn’t always about being perfect; its about making the right decisions. Do you think you’re actually nice as you claim? Below are 9 signs you are a good person!

Psychology has thoroughly investigated the identifying key traits that genuinely good people seem to have. So, I’m going to provide some of the signs that will let you know you’re not as bad as you think.



Up Next

The Modern Day Stoic: Unlocking Ancient Wisdom For Everyday Resilience

Becoming a Modern Day Stoic: Tips for Tranquility

In a world filled with endless notifications, constant digital distractions, and information overload, how can we find inner calm and contentment? The ancient philosophy of Stoicism may hold the answers we’re searching for. Let’s find out how to be a modern day stoic and apply stoicism in the digital age.

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that emphasizes living in accordance with reason and virtue. The Stoics believed that the key to a good and meaningful life lies in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not worrying about factors outside of our control.