‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you’ Lewis B Smedes
There have been many times in my life when my forgiveness was needed. Times when people hurt me to my core – times that caused me to feel upset, betrayed and angry. In these moments I experienced the pain caused by holding onto my resentment too long, and discovered the intense relief and freedom that followed once I forgave.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, forgiveness can be defined as ‘To stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offense, flaw or mistake’. What I like about this definition is that it focuses on the psychological process of releasing anger and resentment when forgiving, a profound psychological benefit enjoyed by those offering forgiveness. More telling still is what the definition omits; at no point does it infer that forgiveness involves forgetting a transgression or condoning it whatsoever, which are both common misconceptions about forgiveness.
When I decided to forgive in the past, I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected benefits I felt on an emotional level. Far from feeling like I had pardoned inexcusable behaviour, I realised that I had instead released myself from the emotionally draining turmoil which my anger and resentment had caused, I had simply let go.
What I learned is that forgiveness was necessary for me first and foremost, and that my forgiveness didn’t need to be vocalised to my perpetrator, in order for it to be valid. Furthermore, I realised that forgiveness didn’t necessarily equate to reconciliation, which was quite a separate issue and one needing to be handled with assertiveness, whereby personal boundaries were communicated and the offense evaluated objectively (For example, is the person a repeat offender? How bad was the offense?).
By forgiving, I had freed myself from remaining stuck in the past, and enabled myself to move forwards with my life. I felt liberated, energised and uplifted.
The process of forgiveness…
The first step in forgiving is to list the facts of what happened – just the facts. Include any behaviour of yours that may have contributed to the situation. Then write down your feelings as a result of what happened. Choose balanced friends and family members who will be compassionate, and in no way inflammatory, to talk to about what happened and how it made you feel. This will serve to make you feel heard and understood.
Once you feel understood it is then time to resolve to forgive. Forgiveness is often counter-instinctive, it is usually a conscious decision that we have to make and commit to.
Then reflect upon the situation and notice if you are experiencing:
2) Hatred and resentment
3) Humiliation and shame
You can then tailor your approach to the specific block to forgiveness you are dealing with.
Stay tuned, next Monday discover how to overcome the three blocks to forgiveness.
Have you ever experienced any of the blocks to forgiveness? How did they prevent you from forgiving? Did they cause you additional pain and suffering from anger and blame? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
‘Forgiveness: How to make peace with your past and get on with your life’ by Sidney B Simon and Suzanne Somin