Forgiveness is not about condoning a behavior, but rather letting go of the hurt or anger we are feeling about it.
2013 is right around the corner and as with any New Year, there will be things ahead we can’t control, but forgiveness is not one of them. We are in complete control of who we forgive and when. Why not spend the next few days, exploring your feelings and options, so you enter the New Year with a fuller heart and a lighter load?
It’s not easy to forgive, but study after study shows the benefits to our physical and emotional well-being are more than worth the effort. Forgiving reduces stress and enhances our health and our happiness and fulfillment levels.
Here are some steps to get you started.
IDENTIFY – Start by admitting – to yourself, not others – that you are upset, frustrated, angry or hurt. Identify your emotions.
EXPLORE – Figure out why. This step isn’t about what they did or said; it’s about why it is upsetting to you. (And, remember sometimes the first person we need to forgive is ourselves.)
Why does it hurt? How does it hurt?
What do you think it means? Is there a connection between what the person did or said, and a belief you have about yourself? (Sometimes the actions of others can trigger a fear – real or imagined that we have.)
Write, draw or mind-map your way through this step. Jot down your thoughts or journal; draw pictures or symbols; or brainstorm your way to clarity. Try them all, and then do what works for you.
Don’t feel you have to get to the bottom of your emotions in one sitting, be willing to come back to your notes or drawings, again and again. It can take days, weeks or months, don’t rush it. And, you may end-up having to forgive more than one person.
Promise yourself not to think or worry about these feelings, unless you are seated and actively writing or drawing them out. This will cut-down on your stress and keep you focused on honestly exploring your feelings.
- WRITE A LETTER – Once, you have a better understanding of what you are feeling; write a letter –BUT, DO NOT SEND IT – to the person you are trying to forgive, even if that person is you! You can use as many details as you like, but make sure you include the feelings associated with them, as well. Explain what they did that hurt you, why, and why you are forgiving them.
- VISUALIZE – Now, visualize yourself having forgiven the person. How does it feel? How does your forgiveness look? Try to imagine how you want to feel when you are with them. Picture how you will be thinking and acting around them; revisiting a memory when you liked being with them in the past can help. Or, if you have chosen not to be around them, fill your visualizations with how this will make your life better, as well.
- REPEAT – these steps as needed. As many times, as needed!
Forgiveness takes courage. We not only have to be brave enough to explore our innermost thoughts and feelings, we also have to trust that we can forgive and that we can deal with this situation and any others that might arise in the future. Make sure you congratulate and treat yourself to something special for being brave enough to forgive! Also feel free to tell a friend you trust that you are very proud of yourself – no details – just that you did something you weren’t sure you could do, and you are happy about it!
PS The “forgive” drawing is from helobiae, another great WordPress blog!