Forgiveness is the ability to let go of the past in order to move forward.
Letting go of old wounds is the antidote to hurtful experiences and can dramatically improve your mood in the present.
You may imagine that forgiveness is arrived at through a logical, rational sorting-out process. But forgiveness does not involve assessing degrees of guilt and innocence, the relative evil of the perpetrator’s intent, as if you were a Supreme Court of One.
Forgiveness means a letting go of anger, not for another’s benefit, but for your own. These people who have hurt you will never know about it. It’s none of their business who you forgive. It’s for your benefit. This matter is between you and you.
Forgiveness is not arrived at or achieved intellectually. Hurt is a personal experience and it can be solved by reinterpretation. When you are hurt, you are, in a sense, at war. You can replace these battle scars in your bloodstream with the feeling that you are at peace. You may find yourself dragged down by anger against those who could have treated you better. These resentments and hostilities about the past can be an obstacle to your enjoyment of the present. You can speed up your healing process by forgiving.
The act of forgiveness gives you options that were never open to you before. It allows you to live your life on a much more realistic basis. If you don’t forgive, the hurt will stay down there inside you forever. Is that what you want? I don’t think so.
You have the power of choice now. Having choices is liberating in itself. You have the choice to let go of these feelings in order to move forward with your life. Forgiveness is not “condoning.” It is not “permitting,” “allowing” or anything else. Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate choice. A decision that you make to stop holding on to your hurt. You can choose whether to hang on to it or to let it go anytime you wish.
Many clients will say, “If I forgive, then how do I prevent it from happening again?” Where is it written that if you don’t forgive, it will make you tough and invulnerable? You cannot prevent hurtful things from happening to you in an imperfect world by refusing to forgive. That is not ‘strength of character’, that’s sulking and pouting. It’s time you replaced that unhappy role with a mature identity of your own.
Some people become confused about forgiveness because it sounds like you’re letting go of responsibility and allowing others to discard the rules of society. But forgiveness can complement personal responsibility. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the past, while you continue to maintain your best effort and clear thinking about personal responsibility in the present.
Here are some choices you can make to foster forgiveness:
1. Identify what hurt and pain (what someone just said or did) as antagonism because that’s what it is. It was not said or done for you, its serves their own agenda.
2. Put your hurt and pain in its proper perspective – they made an immature, childish statement or action. It does not deserve the attention and energy you are giving it.
3. Are you going to let your hurt determine your response or will you choose to use your adult judgment? Are you going to let your anger control you or are you going to manage it?
4. Identify that this is an opportunity to allow others to be responsible for themselves.
5. Using your adult judgment, you can consciously choose to manage your hurt and anger appropriately. You can take this immature, foolish remark like a grown-up instead of returning to your childhood.
6. Understand that your purpose in holding onto this hurt and pain is not to be productive, but
a) to relieve the pain of your feelings by putting them down and to build yourself up
b) to control the situation
c) to prevent the humiliating exposure of your own imperfections
d) to achieve fairness by seeking revenge and hurting them.
7. You can choose to write out your anger. Writing your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper makes them tangible and concrete before our very eyes. You cannot evaluate abstract thoughts in your mind about your life or about yourself. However, we can begin to sort them out when you see them in black and white in front of you.
To start the journaling process it maybe useful to ask yourself focusing questions. By answering these questions you are able to make your internalized, unconscious, unacceptable feelings conscious and concrete. This allows you to find forgiveness from your conflicting logical and emotional reactions, which helps you to move forward.
Forgiveness can be achieved by choosing to self reflect on questions, such as:
What is the worst part about it?
How does that worst part make me feel?
When else have I felt this way?
What am I trying achieve?
What scares me about this?
How will this affect my life in the long term?
What would be an ideal outcome?
What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?”