Most of us have memories, events, and people from the past who evoke such negative feelings and
associations within us that we try not to think about them. Donnally lists six ground rules to encourage
forgiveness and thus to rid ourselves of "bad" feelings about others. Donnally's six ground rules, she
says, are intended to encourage a potentially difficult process and pave the way for getting forgiveness
off the ground:
1. It isn't necessary to tell the person you are forgiving that he or she is the subject of your
efforts. If sharing that information will help, do it. If sharing that information will
exacerbate an already difficult situation, avoid it. The same rule of thumb holds true after
forgiveness. Strenuous effort is involved in doing that kind of separating when the offense
looms so large that it defines the other (or you, when you are the one in need of forgiveness).
Forgiveness is difficult to give because you need to see the one who hurt you as other than
the hurt, and that isn't easy. Forgiveness is difficult to receive because you need to believe
that someone has seen more in you than whatever hurtful thing it is that you did.
Furthermore, ye need to believe the same about yourself--which is another way of saying that
you are deserving of forgiveness.
2. Even though the person who hurt you and is in need of your forgiveness (or vice versa) is
distanced geographically or has died, it is never too late or impossible to forgive. It took
twenty-five years before Michelangelo could forgive a rival for deliberately defacing a set of
his drawings. The cruelty associated with that act of vandalism led Michelangelo into a
lengthy depression and period of moroseness. When he was finally able to forgive, the man
who had committed the act was already dead, but that did not lessen the possibility or the
importance of the reconciliation for Michelangelo.
The point is that forgiveness applies to the living and the dead, the proximate and the
distanced. It has no geographic or time barriers.
3. Suppose a salesclerk slights you, or an acquaintance passes a rude remark about your child,
or a parent of yours tells you about being mistreated by neighbors. As painful as these things
are, they are minor offenses