A Step-by-Step Process for
Resolving Anger and
Robert D. Enright
Geoffrey W. Sutton
In Forgiveness is a Choice, psychologist Robert D. Enright provides “a self-help book for people who have been deeply hurt by another and are caught in a vortex of anger, depression, and resentment.”
Enright begins by explaining what forgiveness is, what forgiveness is not, and what happens if we do not forgive. His explanations include examples to help understand how people come to terms with offenses and what it means to forgive an offender.
For his definition of forgiveness, Enright quotes British philosopher, Joanna North.
When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts.
Enright, like other psychologists, advise readers that forgiveness is not condoning, excusing, forgetting, or justifying an offense. Also, forgiveness is distinct from reconciling, which requires building trust between two parties.
Having established that forgiveness is a process, Enright explains the four phases of the model he has tested in research.
Phase 1: Uncovering your Anger
Enright presents a set of questions to help readers identify their anger toward the offender and evaluate the impact of the offense on thoughts, feelings, health, and even life itself.
Phase 2: Deciding to Forgive
Readers are encouraged to consider their willingness to begin the forgiveness process.
Phase 3: Working on Forgiveness
In this phase, readers learn about understanding and compassion, accepting pain, and giving the offender the gift of forgiveness.
Phase 4: Discovery and Release from Emotional Prison
Enright identifies several things we can discover in this phase of the forgiveness process. For example: the meaning of suffering, your need for forgiveness, you are not alone, the purpose of your life, freedom of forgiveness.
Two final chapters address related topics. In chapter 13, Enright offers suggestions on helping children forgive. And In chapter 14, he discusses reconciliation.
I have read works by Robert Enright and Ev Worthington (see list) and find that the scientific evidence for both forgiveness models is robust so, it is easy to recommend them to others. The models are somewhat different but include similar components to help us deal with powerful emotions and recurring thoughts about the ways people have hurt us. An organized sequence can help us reach forgiveness and let go of the past to focus on the present and the future.
Of course, forgiveness is not a panacea and self-help programs for forgiveness do not always work for everyone. Some may find consulting a psychotherapist helpful. Recommendations for psychotherapists can be found by contacting physicians or insurance companies and through professional organizations like the APA psychologist locator https://locator.apa.org/
Cite this blog post
Sutton, G.W. (2020, November 5). Forgiveness is a choice-Getting to hope-A review. Sutton Reviews. https://suttonreviews.suttong.com/2020/11/forgiveness-is-choice-getting-to-hope.html
Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness is a choice: A step-by-step process for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.