Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to do while at the same time one of the most needed in the world. There are plenty of people sick of anger, either toward others or to themselves. Forgiveness involves letting go and surrender of judgment and condemnation while engaging in a self-healing journey. It is not about the person that inflicted pain but about you. We need compassion in order to forgive others but we need even more to forgive ourselves. If we try to understand the human nature and to not take things personal, it would be easier to realize that bad things happen and that many times there is an explanation even for the most horrific scenarios. Now does understanding the reasons take the pain away? Probably not. But the human mind has an innate need to make sense of things and therefore, understanding things facilitates the process of forgiving. You can choose to move on with your life by refusing to continue to feel like a victim. In this way you will stop a person or event to continue damaging your life in the present.
To forgive does not mean we agree with or condone inappropriate behavior nor mean reconciliation. It means we are willing to let go, move on or free ourselves from the burden of resentment. Forgiveness can be exhibited in many ways and can be accomplished with or without the offender present. Below are some steps to consider when considering forgiveness.
1) A) Journal or write about your feelings, what happened and let it all out. This is your personal experience so just put it all down in whatever manner makes you feel good! B) If you’re not a writer, find an objective person who can listen to you without giving their opinion unless you ask for it. Then talk it out. C) If you have a spiritual connection to some greater power you can pray about it.
2) Look at your side of the event, disagreement, problem. How did you participate, do you have anything to “clean up”. “Clean up” means taking responsibility for your part in the issues, disagreement or problem. It is often helpful to look at how you may do things differently next time, so you can learn from this experience.
3) Consider if you are even willing to forgive yet. If not I would recommend that you take some steps to work through the underlying feelings you are still carrying around, such as anger, hurt or a myriad of other emotions. You cannot forgive someone until you have fully felt the pain. If you are unwilling go back to step 1 and repeat until you feel willingness beginning to emerge.
4) Go over the pros and cons that forgiving brings to YOUR present life as well as the pros and cons that holding onto resentment does. If you continue to focus on the repercussions that it will have on the other person/part’s life you are not ready to let go. Remember that this is not a gift to the other person but to yourself. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
5) Make the decision to forgive anyone involved in the situation. Don’t forget yourself if you need it too. Decide if you need to say or write anything to anyone involved to get your feelings out and be heard. The person you are forgiving does not need to be willing or present for you to complete this process. You can ask an objective person to be on the receiving end if you don’t feel safe or comfortable going to the person who you are upset with. You can visualize that you are speaking to that person when you are speaking to a friend or objective listener.
6) Let go! Keep in mind you are choosing to forgive, if you are holding on to a belief that the other person has to do something before you’ll forgive you are choosing to remain stuck. If you find situations re-stimulating the old feelings of hurt you may need to repeat step 1.
Keep in mind this process is not easy but it is very rewarding and freeing for you. Often times we have to remember that life is made of choices, not all the time of the circumstances or situations we have to live but choices of the way we react to them.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Disclaimer: If after practicing these steps you don’t see any results, you would probably benefit with working with a therapist.