By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
7-Eleven store owner Jay Singh caught a young thief and gave him free food for his family instead of calling 911, CBS News reported. Singh said an arrest would ruin the boy’s life, but it wouldn’t solve his hunger problem. The first step of forgiveness is making a choice.
Singh asked the boy why he was stealing food from his Toledo, Ohio, store. The boy said he and his younger brother were hungry; so, Singh provided him with free food instead of notifying the police. According to CBS, Singh said that one of the many beliefs in Indian culture is that giving food to a hungry person is an act for which God may bless the giver. His forgiveness of the would-be thief is a powerful act that begins with making a conscious choice to do so. Let’s learn how.
7-11 Robery – What Forgiveness Isn’t
Thinking about forgiving someone (even ourselves) for a transgression can make us feel as though, if we truly forgave them, we’d be weak or that justice wouldn’t be served. Even worse, we may be inviting the person to do us harm again or may be paving the way for others to do the same. But this isn’t necessarily the case. “Forgiveness is not forgetting,” said Dr. Jason M. Satterfield, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of Behavioral Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Forgiveness is not surrender, resignation, or passivity. Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation. It’s not excusing or condoning; it’s not letting time heal or somehow balancing the scales.”
Instead, Dr. Satterfield said that forgiveness is an ongoing and active process that may take several years. However, it starts with the desire or conscious choice to begin forgiving.
Predictors of Forgiveness
Feeling the desire to forgive is a very clear first sign of the process. Forgiveness rarely happens suddenly or surprisingly. The second predictor of forgiveness is receiving an apology. “That may seem somewhat simplistic, but having another person—particularly the transgressor—acknowledge that a wrong occurred and acknowledge regret that the wrong occurred can actually go quite a long way in terms of promoting healing and forgiveness,” Dr. Satterfield said.
Another useful tool required for forgiveness is empathy, or to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Finally, there is “the capacity to manage or to control [our] own angry reaction,” Dr. Satterfield said. For many, this is the most difficult tool to master.
“Often times when we’re angry, or if we have been harmed or hurt in some way, we will ruminate about that transgression,” Dr. Satterfield said. This causes us to get stuck in a rut, riling ourselves up in anger. First, then, inhibition is a powerful cognitive skill—truly stopping a negative train of thought in its tracks. This can be done by task switching, which involves actively pursuing another line of thought; or using empathy and abstract thinking to understand why the transgression has occurred. Once we’ve cooled down from the event in the long run and chosen to forgive, the process has already begun.
“Most important is to remember that forgiveness is for you, and it’s not necessarily for someone else,” Dr. Satterfield said. “The primary beneficiary of forgiveness is the person doing the forgiving.”
Dr. Jason M. Satterfield contributed to this article. Dr. Satterfield is Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of Behavioral Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He earned his B.S. in Brain Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.