Learning to forgive in the small things

From Robert Enright


Through the practice we do become more proficient in the practice of any virtue including forgiveness.

Video Interview Transcript

The more you practice the better you get. Now forgiveness is more than a skill but it includes the skill of knowing you have to do this, trying to struggle to see the other as a human being and struggling after the depth of that reality. And you can in fact practice forgiving even in the little things toward people who would know you a little bit but practicing regularly, even daily. You become a deeper forgiver who not only can forgive more quickly so it doesn't have to take a year or two it might still take months if it's a very tragic kind of a situation but practice helps a lot.
What about the little things in life such as a man asking his wife to fill up the gas tank in the car and she forgets to do that and now he has to get up early and find the petrol station. He is a little late for work and he is annoyed. Is that the same kind of forgiving as let's say the Amish forgiving the murderer and the memer of their precious children? It is not on the same magnitude but it is the same virtue. It's going to be easier for the man to forgive his spouse for that. He will get to the forgiving point more quickly and there won't be repercussions. There won't be consequences for him of unforgiveness as there would be for those who are filled with rage. But it's the exact same virtue and it's those little things on which we practice and build up in the virtue of forgiveness. So we do exercise what we call our forgiveness muscles. We become forgiving fit for the larger things of life.
Here's another thing to keep in mind when there are little things that continually build up in our annoyances and we continually are annoyed without asking for justice in a quiet way or even forgiving. The annoyances within us can build up where all of a sudden someone might displace their anger out of the person for another little thing and the other is shocked. Why are you being so upset because I forgot to bring orange juice home dear and it has nothing to do with just the orange juice it's that he's never dealt with the 30 things that have happened over the last month. They're all coming tumbling down.
We ought to if we choose to forgive. If we choose to make forgiveness a part of our family and choose to make a forgiving community be aware of those little things, forgive those little things. Even though it doesn't take much effort it's not trivial because upon the little things the bigger issues of forgiveness are built and I think the practice as Plato told us to do thousands of years ago is correct. Through the practice we do become more proficient in the practice of any virtue including forgiveness which I think is the hardest virtue to exercise on the planet because you're being good to those who have betrayed you.

Discussion starter questions
  • How difficult is it for you to forgive daily?
  • ...

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Director's note

Robert Enright explain that forgiving a murder or something "less significant" is still part of the virtue of forgiveness. He gives us some pratical advices on the virtue of forgiveness for our every day life.

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