Helping People REACH Forgiveness Of Others -- By: Everett L. Worthington, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 170:679 (Jul 2013)
Article: Helping People REACH Forgiveness Of Others
Author: Everett L. Worthington, Jr.

Helping People REACH Forgiveness Of Others*

Everett L. Worthington Jr.

* This is the third article in a four-part series, “Virtue in Positive Psychology and Practical Theology,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectureship, February 7-10, 2012, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Everett L. Worthington Jr. is Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.

In my first two articles, I outlined a psychological model of virtue. Then I discussed four interrelated virtues—justice, mercy, forgiveness, and the glue that holds them together, humility. In the present article, I want to move to applied psychological science, which impinges directly on practical theology.

The World And The Church Need Forgiveness

Both church and world need methods of forgiving. I need not point out what we all know. Many marriages go moribund annually. Banks and businesses go bust and devour people’s life savings. Churches crumble from conflict. Pastors’ peccadilloes are paraded through the media. Countries disintegrate from domestic disputes and power politics; they leave unforgiven child soldiers, unforgiving war-ravaged refugees, irreconcilable tribal tensions, and unremitting hatreds. Yes, we need forgiveness at every level of life—from God, within ourselves, and within our marriages, families, businesses, communities, states, nations, and global community.

But how do we forgive the really hard things of life? Worse, how do we even forgive the little hurts, slights, and offenses that we know we ought to forgive instantly but cannot? We carry around bitterness until it takes root instead of being crushed in its seed. How can the seeds of faith seem to fall too often on hard ground and wither in the heat of the day while the seeds of conflict seem to find crevices full of rich loam and sprout so that the roots

of unforgiveness threaten to break apart the rock of our faith? Why can we not forgive better, faster, more thoroughly than we do?

Scripture tells us clearly that God requires decisional forgiveness and God desires emotional forgiveness.1 But it is skimpy on details about how to forgive decisionally or emotionally.

Christians Can Help Every Willing Heart, Home, And Homeland Reach Forgiveness

We have developed a method by which to promote decisional and emotional forgiveness. It helps people decide to forgive, and then it helps them replace unforgiving emotions like resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger, and fear (i.e...

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