Article 2-A of a Forgiveness Section of the Positive Psychology Series

In my previous article, I introduced the concept of forgiveness as a central tenet in the growing field of Positive Psychology. Many important health benefits have been linked to the act of forgiveness, most notably the power of forgiveness to heal and mend relationships when there has been a clash as a result of a transgression. In this article, I further explore the concept and introduce another key ingredient, namely, apology.

The Importance of Naming the Wrong

Not all transgressions are intentionally-committed wrongs. In fact, being wronged does not necessarily mean that the transgressor was in the wrong. However, transgressions often are acts of wrong done by one person to another – and an important pillar of forgiveness is recognizing and declaring to yourself that someone has wronged you. Right and wrong don’t change according to person or circumstance. If something was wrong, then it was wrong. Part of your healing involves judging the matter and clearly saying so. This often goes either one of two ways. A person may be wary of conflict, or feel a lack of authority to declare this, and shy away from it. Alternatively, they will not hesitate to decry and condemn the wrongs committed against them in an almost limitless manner, continually blaming others. As a therapist, I most often work with the former as I seek to help the moment of declaration to emerge. (After all, who needs a therapist if most everything is someone else’s fault?)

In the case of the former, declaring a wrong is an act of health, while for the latter it can be a hurtful snare. Blaming things on other people can easily be practiced until it even convinces the blamer – and this technique is quickly applied whenever they feel defensive or helpless. But for the former, I find this moment to be an act of becoming more oneself – it means demanding that others be held responsible for their actions and also treat ‘me’ with respect. If God has commanded us to treat others as we would like to be treated, then others are also commanded to treat you this way. Drawing boundaries is vital, and it is necessary to say that something was wrong in order to be able to commit forgiveness in the first place.

Admitting that You are Wrong

SplitShire_Playing_ChessClosely related to the act of declaring a wrong is one of the most important relational acts I have found, namely, admitting a wrong in order to be forgiven. When challenged to admit one’s brokenness, there is a powerful drive in the human heart that rises up and will do almost anything to clear one’s record and insist on one’s innocence. We humans say many things to protect ourselves from admitting what feels unforgiveable – that we did something wrong and that we know it.

There are so many reasons we give for doing the wrong thing. We say that we didn’t mean it, we say they shouldn’t have taken it that way, we say we were frustrated or worried or even excited, we say they hurt us first and we say they deserved it.  We say there’s no real rule against what we did, we say they shouldn’t be so sensitive, and we say we were trying to help. Or we may say we weren’t shown any better growing up or that we were hurt by others in this way. We may even say it was a moment of insanity and that we had no control of ourselves.

Have you tried any of these? Some of them may be true for you, but there are similar situations when we do what is right – and that makes the above excuses rather precarious. Many times in life, we simply did something wrong and we need to admit it.

The courage it takes to do this is great. It takes faith in the idea that apologizing is the right thing to do and that it will do more good than harm. In my next article, I will explain both the harm of withholding an apology and the blessing that a sincere apology brings to a relationship.

Christian Counseling to Tap into the Power of Forgiveness

It is my pleasure to join with clients and help them to see the ways in which they have already overcome in life, and how God has uniquely shaped them – both to do great things and to experience joy and goodness in their lives and relationships.

“bw_waiting_in_car_Park,” courtesy of Ardanea,; “Playing Chess,” Courtesy of


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