We’ve all heard about the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to heal and gain control over our anger. It helps us move on from a perceived wrong. It challenges us to see people in new ways and accept their weaknesses. While most everyone agrees that forgiveness is essential, so many of us have a difficult time actually doing it. So why is forgiveness so difficult and what steps can we take to begin forgiving someone? Here is what we know.
Forgiveness is a Process
Many people mistakenly believe that forgiveness is a one-time event. We forgive, we move on, we go about our lives. While this may be true for those who have committed small slights against us, it is different when it comes to those who have deeply hurt us. Perhaps resentment stems from irritation with a person’s entire personality. Because you can’t go about changing someone’s personality, it’s more difficult to forgive them when they continue to hurt you.
Forgiveness is an on-going, sometimes a lifelong process that requires patience, dedication, and effort. Many times, we have to establish boundaries to ensure we can stay in a state of forgiveness. While there is no one correct way to forgive someone, there are a series of steps that make it easier. These include –
1. Acknowledge the Pain
Sometimes we are upset and don’t even know it. Perhaps we have repressed trauma or hurt from our childhood. Maybe we are just now realizing how much the slight hurt us and how angry we are. Ask yourself who hurt you and why you think they did it. Try to look at it from their perspective. This does not imply that you are excusing their behavior, just that you are trying to understand it.
2. Consider the Consequences
How has the pain impacted you emotionally, spiritually, and financially? To consider the consequences of this person’s actions, we are in the process of making a choice. The choice is whether or not we wish to forgive this person for what they did.
3. Seek Acceptance
Acceptance is very difficult, particularly for those who have been deeply wounded. We must accept that we cannot change what has already occurred. Unfortunately, we have to realize that being angry doesn’t fix what happened to us. We have to realize that anger is hurting us more than anyone else. This is when you need to decide whether you want to forgive or not. Do you want to let go of your anger or hold on to it? The choice is ultimately yours.
4. Repair or Set Boundaries
You can choose to either repair the relationship or set boundaries with this individual. Setting boundaries is helpful when the person who harmed you continues to do so. Forgiveness can help you heal but boundaries can help you to stay healed. If the person who hurt you made a one-time mistake, then establishing boundaries may not be necessary. Repairing the relationship doesn’t mean that everything goes back to normal right away. Depending on the situation, it can take time. Consider how you want to repair this particular relationship and set up parameters.
5. Learn and Forgive
Learn the many ways that forgiveness benefits you. If you focus on what it does for you rather than the other person, you will be more likely to succeed in forgiving. Realize that by staying angry at this person, they are still holding power over you in many ways. When it’s time to completely forgive, the act may be silent or verbal. You aren’t always compelled to verbally forgive the individual. And you may need to continue this process several times to feel like you’ve fully forgiven him/her.
Are you struggling with anger towards an individual who hurt you? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.