Few concepts are as misunderstood as forgiveness. A common belief is that forgiveness is all about admitting that whatever happened was wrong and just having them “let it go,” as though nothing ever happened and there was no damage. That isn’t forgiveness, it’s forgetting … and few of us are capable of forgetting things that hurt us.
Our approach to creating forgiveness comes from the evidence-based Prepare/Enrich curriculum. It defines six steps that are involved in seeking forgiveness and six more that are needed to be able to grant it.
If you’re seeking forgiveness from someone you’ve hurt, you first have to admit that what you said or did was wrong and hurtful. It will act take actively empathizing with the pain your actions caused that person. Next, it requires accepting responsibility for what you did and offer assurances that it won’t happen again. Only then can you genuinely ask for the other person’s forgiveness. But you’re not done. After the other person forgives you, forgiving yourself is necessary. Accept that you’re human and capable of making mistakes. That way, you’re less likely to dwell on what happened and less likely to repeat the action in the future.
So what if you’re on the other side? What is involved in being able to grant forgiveness? Begin by acknowledging the extent of the pain and/or anger you’ve experienced. Establish boundaries so that you won’t expose yourself to similar damage in the future. Next, agree to give up your “right” to “get even.” That’s a tough one, because our society incorrectly emphasizes the power of revenge. You’ve heard it many times — don’t get mad, get even. It is important to let go of blame, both the blame that’s directed at the other person and any blame you’ve assumed for yourself. Finally, if it’s safe to do so, communicate forgiveness and work toward reconciliation.
The steps may sound simple, and you’re probably thinking that they’re a lot tougher and more complicated in practice. That’s absolutely true. Whether you’re seeking forgiveness or want to grant it, you may want to reach out to a professional who can help you through the steps. It might take some assistance defining what to do at each step, or support to help get through the steps. It’s a difficult journey, but you’ll find that forgiveness — whichever side of it you’re on — is a liberating power that can free you to live a happier, more satisfying life.
Contact us today to learn more about forgiveness and to get help forgiving yourself or others.