Forgiveness is all about you
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future” — Paul Boese
I started my forgiveness journey as part of some courses I was taking to incorporate into my English lessons because sometimes it’s like being a therapist and I wanted more tools to help people. I’ve also been doing therapy once a month for some years now for my personal growth, so I found that some of the things I was already doing translated directly to the forgiveness work I wanted to do. Most therapists don’t use forgiveness techniques as part of the journey toward growth. One theory that I’ve seen for this is that in the early 1800's psychology wanted to be taken seriously as a science, so they wanted nothing to do with religion, which often emphasis forgiveness. The main issue with religion telling you to forgive is just that. They tell you, but don’t teach you effective strategies (or any strategies) for it, just “turn the other cheek”.
I’m going to share some tips and findings from my work so far and if you like to write, or are actively writing, this process is going to be easier for you. When I got into a course on forgiveness, started reading books and articles, and doing exercises, I was already doing the work since I was writing my autobiography. To state the obvious, an autobiography isn’t necessary. It’s been proven that just writing down your hurts is enough to start the process and letting go of some stress and anger. The biggest reason for this is that when you make a list, it’s the beginning of a commitment to work on them. You may also reflect in ways you haven’t previously. Writing them down is only a start though, you need effective strategies and to put yourself in the right mindset. Part of the strategy for people with significant, or many, grievances is to chunk them down to smaller parts, the same way we take bites, rather than eating an entire plate of food at once. Start with this: write each name and offense, then answer the following…
*This is only going to be read by you. If you think of some morbid stuff, so be it. Let it out.
1. Who can’t you think about without getting angry or having resentment toward? Write down everyone you think of.
*For each person or organization
2. What do they owe you?
3. What punishment do you feel they deserve?
4. What do you expect to receive, didn’t get or don’t plan on receiving? (Can be the opposite if you’re trying to be forgiven)
5. What do you feel that you owe them?
6. What would it take for you to forgive them now and yourself?
7. Re-read your answers for 1–6, how do you feel and is this the justice you want? How likely is it that you’ll get what you want or change your own or someone else’s behavior? How long might you have to wait to get what you want? Are you willing to let this go and why or why not?
I noticed a huge change in myself over the past year in particular after all of the exercises. I have over two-hundred pages written about my journey and when I needed a break from writing, I stepped away for a couple months while I kept reading and doing work on forgiveness. When I got back to my most recent edit, I changed the wording in many places that reflected a more empathetic state of mind. I wasn’t thinking of myself as a victim anymore (not that I was in every situation) and I started understanding many things from alternative perspectives. Just because I am forgiving of many hurts doesn’t mean I condone the actions, I forgive for me to be happy. How many people do you think about really think about you? You’re the only one affected.
If you read any books about forgiveness, one of the first things they’ll do is try to help you get past myths. One of them is that if you forgive, you’re condoning someone’s actions and you open yourself up to be hurt again. It’s quite the opposite! You do the work for you, not them, and this will help you set better boundaries and limits to not be hurt again in the future. Regardless of the trauma, you don’t need reconciliation to forgive, especially if it’s physical abuse. There’s some people I have no interest in talking to ever again that I’ve forgiven.
It’s ok if this is hard for you, no growth ever came from staying in your comfort zone. Everyone has their own timetable for forgiveness, so don’t rush it. Try the writing exercise above, sit and reflect on it until you’re ready and try to accept the situation for what it is.
My next posts will dispel other myths, demonstrate exercises one can do and share helpful ways to work on yourself, starting with mindset. If you think that you can benefit from forgiveness coaching, don’t hesitate to reach out or support me to be able to publish more.