Forgiveness is the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. What does that mean? I believe the key word in this definition is “process.” Forgiveness is a truly intentional process. It takes both time and commitment for you to transform your understanding of the hurt you have experienced. Therefore, it is important to work at a pace that is comfortable for you and your situation.
There is not one method or strategy that works for everyone. And that’s okay! Everett Worthington suggests a five-step REACH method to become more forgiving.
1. Recall the hurt
2. Empathize with the one who hurt you
3. Offer an Altruistic gift of forgiveness
4. Make the Commitment to forgive
5. Hold on to the forgiveness
Other strategies may include:
• Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
• Identify what needs healing, who needs to be forgiven, and for what
• Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you, how those emotions affect your behavior, and then work to release them
• Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
• Move away from your role as victim and release the control/power that the offending person and situation have had in your life
• Consider joining a support group or seeing a therapist
• Engage in meditation exercises to help find peace and clarity
• Journal your thoughts and feelings about forgiving the person and wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, the goal of forgiveness is not to determine whether the person is deserving of forgiveness, nor is it to reconcile. You may choose not to reconcile with the person you are forgiving, especially if doing so would jeopardize your safety. Forgiveness is about releasing feelings of resentment, anger, guilt and shame regarding the perpetrator and the event.
This release can provide us with many health benefits, including:
• Healthier relationships
• Improved mental health
• Less anxiety, stress and hostility
• Lower blood pressure
• Fewer symptoms of depression
• A stronger immune system
• Improved heart health
• Improved self-esteem
What will your relationship with forgiveness look like this new year?
Elizabeth Lewitke, MSW, LSW