Forgiveness is hard work, that is what! Here are some tips for getting through it (Adapted from AmyWilsonBlog).
What is Forgiveness?
- Forgiveness is for you and not the offender.
- Forgiveness is taking back your power.
- Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel.
- Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you.
- Forgiveness is a trainable skill.
- Forgiveness helps you get control over your feelings.
- Forgiveness can improve your mental and physical health.
- Forgiveness is becoming a hero instead of a victim.
- Forgiveness is a choice.
- Everyone can learn to forgive.
What Forgiveness is Not
- Forgiveness is not condoning kindness.
- Forgiveness is not excusing poor behavior.
- Forgiveness does not have to be an other worldly or religious experience.
- Forgiveness is not denying or minimizing your hurt.
- Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender.
- Forgiveness does not mean you give up having feelings.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful happened.
To know if it is time for forgiveness, you have to know if there is a grievance in place. Take this test to find out if you are carrying a grievance.
The Blame Game
- We insist the reason for our suffering lies with someone else (*If we believe the cause of the hurt lies outside us, we will look outside ourselves for the solution as well)
- When we blame someone else for our troubles, we remain stuck in the past and unable to heal.
- When we believe someone else is the cause of our pain then we believe we need something from them in order to feel better (we want an apology, a promise to change, someone to beg our forgiveness, etc.)
Unfortunately, while it is easy to blame others for how we feel, we are essentially giving away our power.
Giving Away Our Power
- When we blame another person for how we feel we give them power to regulate our emotions.
- Feeling bad every time we think of the person who has hurt us becomes a habit and leads us to feel like the victim of someone more powerful.
- We can feel helpless because we are constantly reminded both in mind and body of how bad we feel. When we blame this normal, protective response on the offender, we make a mistake.
The Grievance Story
- There are many versions of your story and many points of view but you only get to tell it from your point of view – your version.
- How often you tell it, to whom you tell it, and how you tell it dramatically affect your life.
- We can easily paint the picture of helplessness in the face of someone’s cruelty, thus creating a grievance story.
So if you’ve seen enough and recognize that you need to forgive here is some guidance:
Get the right kind of support:
- Ask for comfort for a short period of time
- Request advice on how to handle what happened
- Ask for honesty from your support network
- Try to learn from the support
- Tell the positive story of your successful coping
- Experience the health benefits of forgiveness
Here are the “don’ts”
- Complain to family and friends about how poorly you were treated
- Resist advice
- Ask others to support you even if you are wrong
- See the challenge as too big to handle
- Suffer the health consequences
Finding the impersonal in the hurt:
- Realize how common each painful experience is
- Nothing that has happened to you is unique
- Suffering is common among everyone
- You were not the first nor will you be the last one it happens to
- Most offenses are committed without the intention of hurting anyone personally
Choose Your Story
We begin the process of creating a new story by taking care every time we talk about the unresolved painful things that have happened to us.
Your grievance story will: hurt you, imprison you, keep you in the past, isolate you from friends and family, and remind you and others that you are a “victim”.
Learn forgiveness and you will: tell your story so your problems become challenges, allow you to overcome difficult obstacles , allow you to succeed on a journey of forgiveness, and remind you and others that you are a “hero”.
An expectation you have that you do not have the power to make happen. It is often an expectation of how another should behave or how things should play out. We do not have the power to enforce all of our “rules and expectations”. Trying to force something you cannot control is an exercise in frustration. The more unenforceable rules you have, the more frustrated you are likely to be. You must let go even if there is only one, because you will suffer every time it is broken. Recognize this and begin making enforceable rules that give you some power and control.
Here is the bottom line…
Forgiveness is a choice. Let it be on the menu of choices when you are mistreated. Forgiveness takes place by undoing each of the steps of the grievance process.
- balance the impersonal with the personal
- take responsibility for how we feel
- change a grievance story to a forgiveness story
Before you are ready to forgive, make sure:
- You know what your feelings are about what happened. (naming the feelings keeps us from denying or minimizing the feelings)
- Be clear about the action that wronged you. (it’s important to know exactly what lines were crossed and that it is not OK so we can avoid situations like it in the future)
- Share your experience with at least one or two trusted people. (sharing your pain helps put your feelings into words and allows others to care for and offer guidance and support)
Recommended Book: Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin
For Therapy Services: The Key Counseling of SA