I found this great article about forgiveness at
wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit. It addresses some of the issues that concern me when someone wants to forgive without dealing with the original issues. Forgiveness isn’t an easy process or a Band-Aid solution. And it doesn’t mean that we have to have that person in our lives anymore, or even trust them again. Many times we have to identify what’s really happened, how we’ve felt, then work our way through to letting go of the anger. This article gives tips on how to get through the difficult process of forgiveness, so that we can heal.
“How to Forgive” from wikihow
One of the hardest, thorniest and most difficult things we humans are ever called upon to do is to respond to evil with kindness, and to forgive the unforgivable. We love to read stories about people who’ve responded to hatred with love, but when that very thing is demanded of us personally, our default seems to be anger, angst, depression, righteousness, hatred, etc. Yet study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurts. Want to live a long, happy life? Forgive the unforgivable. It really is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Your enemy may not deserve to be forgiven for all the pain and sadness and suffering they’ve purposefully inflicted on your life, but you deserve to be free of this evil. As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored.”
- Realize that the hate you feel toward your enemy does not harm them in the slightest. Chances are, they’ve gone on with their life and haven’t given you another thought.
- Make a list of the good things that happened as a result of this awful experience. You’ve probably focused long enough on the bad parts of this experience. Look at the problem from a wholly new angle; look at the good side. The first item on that list may be a long time coming because you’ve focused on the bad for so long, but don’t give up. Force yourself to find 10 good things that happened specifically because of this experience.
- Look for the helpers. Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) related that, as a little boy, he’d often become upset about major catastrophes in the news. His mother would tell him, “look for the helpers.” In your own nightmarish experience, think back to the people who helped you. Think about their kindness and unselfishness.
- Look at the bigger picture. Was someone your “good samaritan”? In this biblical story, a traveler happens upon a poor soul who was beat up on the road to Jericho and left for dead. It’s a lot easier to play the part of the Good Samaritan than to be the poor soul who is left bleeding and bruised on the side of the road. Perhaps this isn’t all about you. Perhaps your trial provided an opportunity for others to rise to an occasion to provide you with help and support.
- Be compassionate with yourself. If you’ve ruminated over this problem for a long time, steering this boat into a new direction could take some time, too. As you try to make a new path out of the dark woods of this old hurt, you’ll make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Be patient and kind to yourself. Extreme emotional pain has a profound effect on the body. Give yourself time to heal – physically and emotionally. Eat well. Rest. Focus on the natural beauty in the world.
- Learn that the Aramaic word for “forgive” means literally to “untie.” The fastest way to free yourself from an enemy and all their negativity is to forgive. Lose yourself from them and their ugliness. Your hatred has tied you to them. Your forgiveness enables you to start walking away from them and the pain.
- Forgiveness must be unconditional. Therefore, it cannot be dependent upon the repentance of those who have harmed us. However, forgiveness of this type must be applied with wisdom and discernment. Unless those who have harmed us have truly repented of whatever they have done, we need to use wisdom in avoiding repeating the hurt. This may require avoiding those who are unrepentant of the harm that they have inflicted upon us.
- Stop telling “the story.” How many times this week did you tell “the story” about how badly you were hurt and how horribly you were wronged? How many times a day do you think about this hurt? It is a stake driven into the ground that keeps you from moving away from this hurt. Rather, forgive your enemy because it’s the kindest thing you can do for your friends and family. Negativity is depressing, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
- Tell “the story” from the other person’s perspective. Actually imagine that you are the other person (the one who offended you) and use the word “I” when saying what they would say. You, most likely, don’t know exactly what the other person was thinking when this event unfolded but pretend that you do and just go with the story that comes up in your head. Sit down with a friend, or maybe even the person you are trying to forgive, and tell the story as though you are that person. It is important to do this verbally and not just in your head. Realize in advance that this is not an easy exercise but it holds great power. Just your willingness to tell the story from the offenders perspective requires a bit of forgiveness. Also, realize that this is not a contradiction to the preceding paragraph since this perspective will change your story.
- Retrain your thinking. When your enemy and their evil actions come to mind, send them a blessing. Wish them well. Hope the best for them. This has two effects. One, it neutralizes that acid of hate that destroys the vessel in which it is stored. The evil we wish for another seems to have a rebound effect. The same is true for the good that we wish for another. When you become able to return blessing for hatred, you’ll know that you’re well on the path to wholeness. The first 15 or 150 times you try this, the “blessing” may feel contrived, empty, and even hypocritical but keep trying. Eventually, it will become a new habit and soon thereafter, the anger and pain that has burned in your heart will evaporate, like dew before the morning sun. This technique forces your mind to overcome the cognitive dissonance between hating someone and doing something nice for them. Since there is no way to take back the kind gesture to agree with your hatred, the only thing your mind can do is change your belief about the person to match the gesture and you will begin to feel they were deserving of the gesture.
- Remember: you’re not the Lone Ranger On hearing my story of woe, one wise preacher said, “I worship a God with holes in his hands and feet.” Considering Jesus in the Bible – he unconditionally forgave those who did terrible things to him. And if you are wronged for doing right, then you’re experiencing what it is written that Jesus did, and that’s a good example to follow.
- Maintain perspective: While the “evil” actions of your “enemy” are hurtful to you and your immediate surroundings, the rest of the world goes on unaware. Validate their meaning in your life, but never lose perspective that others are not involved and do not deserve anything to be taken out on them. Your enemy is someone else’s beloved son, someone’s employee, or a child’s parent.
- Put your best mental energies (perhaps first thing in the morning) into visualizing the new life you want. See yourself – in the future – as free of this pain and suffering.
- Keep the following quotes in mind if you’re finding it hard to generate positive feelings for the person:
- “Those who are the hardest to love, need it the most.”
- Max Ehrmann – “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”
- Sometimes it helps to think of how others have forgiven under incredible circumstances. Ask friends for support and examples to motivate you toward forgiveness.
- In this article, forgiveness is unconditional and not predicated on any act or request from the offender. The type of forgiveness discussed here is intended only to free you from the impotent rage, depression, and despair that continuing to nurse that grievance causes you.
- It should be said that forgiveness is not acceptance of wrong behavior. Let’s say a family member has wronged you, and you must continue to interact with him or her, and also that s/he has offered a lame apology only to follow it up with more bad behavior. Nothing requires you to trust such a person – what is really wise at this point is to realize that this person will never be trustworthy, and that you must keep a distance. While it’s fruitless to torment yourself over this person’s actions (just let them go using the techniques outlined in this article), you should not feel it incumbent upon you to be this person’s willing victim. Acknowledge; move on.
- A person who truly wants to repent must realize this will require action on their part: a sincere apology, a promise not to repeat the offense (or similar ones), and time. If you don’t see repentance, understand that awarding forgiveness to that person is a benefit to yourself, not to them. Without their sincere repentance, you must let it go for your own sake, but you need not feel that you should become that person’s doormat, allowing him or her to hurt you again and again.
- Forgiveness does not necessarily imply reconciliation. It does not turn the clock back to where it was before the wrong took place. Once you’ve forgiven, the burden of reconciliation is on the forgiven person, not on you. The forgiven person must make amends, and you are under no obligation to accept them.
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