Steps to Forgiveness

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mohandas Gandhi

What are some real steps that can be taken to rid you of the cancerous feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness? Here is a list of some things that you can get started on today to start being in control again of your life.

  1. Feel the pain. Depending on the magnitude of the injury and your emotional makeup, this step may take months–or even years–to fully grieve. There are no shortcuts to the grieving process. And it definitely does not work to pretend that no injury has taken place. That would be like trying to shove a fully inflated ball under the water and hold it there. Eventually the ball will come exploding out of the water. That is the same with negative emotions. We need to own our emotions. Sharing feelings with a trusted friend or family member as much as is required can help get those feelings out. Be aware that the person you choose to confide in is critical. Some friends genuinely help us and encourage us to more positive ways of thinking. Others may fuel the fire, encourage us in our bitterness, and actually make things worse! If you are uncertain with who you can safely talk to, a skilled counselor may be needed to work through some hard emotions.
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  3. Keep a Journal. Journals can be perhaps the best therapy of all. When we write down our feelings and thoughts we release them and begin to purge the negative emotions out of our hearts. Once our feelings are out on paper, often if we keep writing, we come up with the best insights ourselves. After all, who can know what’s going on in our minds and hearts better than us? We just need to slow down long enough to really examine ourselves. A trained counselor doesn’t solve our problems for us; they ask us directed questions that help us understand ourselves and come up with our own healthy solutions. Often times we can do this “therapy” ourselves through journaling.
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  5. Set Your Heart Right With God or a Higher Power. When our hearts are soft, when we desire light and truth and peace, forgiveness can flow. Get yourself to a peaceful place. A place where you feel calm, peaceful, loving. For a moment, let go of the wrong you are trying to forgive. Think about and write down in your journal how you have not been true to yourself. Ask yourself, “What in my life am I not living up to my truest self?”
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  7. Have Empathy. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” When people act badly, they are coming from a negative place. Hurt people hurt people. Mentally put yourself in the other person’s mind. Try to imagine what life feels like from their point of view. Imagine what pain and sorrow they are carrying in their hearts. You will find that bitterness and anger will start to be replaced with empathy and compassion.
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  9. Set a New Plan for the Future. Maybe your life has been unalterably changed by what this person did. Maybe you are considering divorce, your spouse left you, you’ve lost a job, or other major life changes have occurred because of what has happened. Real decisions have to be made on what to do next. Sometimes what makes it hard to forgive and move on is that we don’t know what to do with that person now. It can be a lot easier to forgive someone that we never have to deal with again. But what about a spouse? Or what about someone that is unlikely to disappear from your life. Maybe new boundaries need to be set. Although forgiveness can be given, maybe it is still unhealthy to continue the relationship as it is presently. Depending on your specific situation, different plans will be needed. This website has more articles that delve into more specific situations. But one thing is certain. You need a new plan going forward.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’VE FORGIVEN?

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