A while back, we posted The 6 A’s of Apology and The 4 Promises of Forgiveness, and someone posed a question on our Facebook page. She asked how you forgive someone who isn’t really sorry. It’s a great question, but it assumes that forgiveness is something that the other person somehow earns.
Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person. On the contrary, staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. If left unchecked, unforgiveness turns to bitterness, and there is a great body of scientific evidence showing that bitterness leads to illness — both physical and psychological. According to Dr. Charles Raison, “The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous. The data is just as established as smoking, and the the size of the effect is the same.”
The word forgive is a verb. It’s something you do, not necessarily something you feel. It’s an act of will. You decide to forgive. You choose to forgive, regardless of what the other person says or does.
Forgiveness does NOT mean that what the other person did was okay. It does not mean they were somehow correct or justified in their actions. In fact, that’s why we tell parents not to let their kids say, “It’s okay” when someone apologizes to them. Instead, we encourage them to say, “I forgive you,” because it’s not okay, but we can still forgive them.
Forgiveness just means that you are choosing to release the offense from your own soul. In essence, you are saying that you are not going to seek revenge, you’re not going to make them pay or show them how it feels. Instead, you are choosing to forgive and move forward with a light heart.
Before you walk through the forgiveness process, you should first decide if this this something that you need to confront. Do you first need to go to the person and tell them how you are feeling and try to work it out? Remember that you are only responsible for your part. You can not control how they respond. Regardless of the outcome, you will have to walk through forgiveness.
Practical Steps to Forgiveness
Step 1 — Separate the Person From Their Words/Actions
In this process, it is really helpful to separate the person from their actions and/or words and try to remember their humanity. People act out of the sum of their beliefs and experiences and their perceived needs. All of us are skewed on some level. The human condition is flawed.
So although you are not saying that what the person said or did is acceptable, the process of forgiveness accepts and honors their humanity by choosing to release anger, offense and hatred.
Step 2 — Make the Choice to Forgive (Out Loud)
You have to make the CHOICE to forgive the person (out loud). Say, “I choose to forgive _______ for _________.” There is power in your words, and although it is hard, a small release happens when your ears hear your own voice saying that you forgive the person.
Step 3 — Think It Through
Spend some time meditating on this and maybe even journaling. Think about what happened. How did it make you feel? How did you react? What did you learn about yourself through this situation? How can you grow from it? Do you need to reevaluate your boundaries with this person or maybe even in general?
Think about the other person. What do you think might have been going on inside the other person when this happened? Is it possible that the other person was behaving out of his/her own unmet needs? If so, what do you think those needs might have been?
Step 4 — Wash Rinse Repeat
The goal of this exercise is to find a way to live in a state of peace and resolution. But also know that it is a gradual process. At some point, you will probably remember the situation, and you might even start to rehearse it in your mind and find yourself all worked up, feeling anxious and frustrated and angry and hurt all over again. When that happens, go back to step one and wash-rinse-repeat until you return to a state of peace and resolution.
Over time, the wound will heal, and you will have emotional freedom. You might still remember it from time to time, but the memory will come without the sting.
This is not only a lesson for us, as parents, but it’s something that we need to mentor our kids through.
Come back on Friday. We will offer practical steps to staying unoffended, as we look at the progression from offense to hatred.
And be sure to tune into Parenting On Purpose radio show this Saturday. We’ll be talking more about conflict resolution. If you’re local to Sarasota, tune in live at 10:00AM on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Out of towners can listen live online at the WSRQ website.