Sunday, January 18, 2009

more about forgiveness

This is from a dog book. Don't laugh.

In her book, For the Love of a Dog Patricia McConnell says in her chapter on Anger, "...fear, adrenaline, and its relatives can take a long time to leave the body. This is one of the reasons it can be so hard to let go of anger. All of us have, at some point, been angry at a perceived injustice, only to discover that we were misinformed. But rather than immediately relaxing, it is common for us to still feel angry, even though the anger no longer makes any sense. That's because our bodies are primed for battle, and no matter how hard our rational brain tries to calm us down, it takes time for our internal chemistry to get back to normal." (For the Love of a Dog, Patricia McConnell, p. 177-8)

God made us that way. It takes a human, any creature, longer to calm down than it does to react. If my dog is charged and I call her off and she comes and I want to treat her for responding to me, if I give her the treat while she's still charged I lose some of that soft mouth. I get some teeth, not because she's neccessarily mad at me (though she may be) but because she's still charged up. [Praise is probably better than food reward unless you toss it in the air.]

McConnell goes on to say, this adrenalin is ". . . why it can be hard to calm down after someone apologizes to us. We may intellectually grant forgiveness, but our body's chemistry can't turn things around that fast." (For the Love of a Dog, Patricia McConnell, p. 177-8)

Apparently, the adrenalin that stimulates our flight or fight response compels our bodies to DO something. That's why doing some kind of physical work often helps us (and children) calm down when we're angry. We can work off that residual energy doing something constructive.

I've understood the part about adrenaline and anger but I never tied that into giving and receiving forgiveness.

My husband used to tell people (and the kids) that forgiveness is a choice. It's not dependent on how you feel. You chose to forgive, whether you feel like it or not because God forgives you. But looking back, I think that approach is confusing to kids - especially kids with strong feelings. My thoughts and feelings are at odds with each other. I chose to forgive, I said "I forgive you" but I don't feel any less angry. Are my thoughts telling me what's true or are my feelings telling me what's true? How do I know I've really forgiven someone if I don't feel like I have? Have I really forgiven them? A cool down period may help give the rational brain the upper hand but it doesn't neccessarily make the emotional memory go away. Over time (I think) continually choosing to forgive helps wipe away the emotional memory but it may not happen as quickly as we want it to. Making peace by sowing new seed a little at a time helps, too.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Looking back on various situations with me and ones with my kids, I'm sure I have expected them to have 'right' responses sooner than I would expect them of myself. Hmmm.