The Art of Forgiveness

Forgiving someone means to pardon them while giving up your resentment, and letting go of your urge to punish.

The decision to forgive someone arises out of the desire to be at peace with yourself and others. The person who forgives usually gains more from the experience than the person being forgiven. It is an expression of self-worth, because it is about getting on with your life in a healthy and more productive way.

We don’t have to know precisely how to forgive in order to take the first step in doing so. The first step requires us to relinquish the struggle against what happened, and to accept that what happened did happen.

In truth, you can’t control another person or change their behavior, no matter how much pain and anger you hold. It is healing to redirect your hurt and anger into behaviors that give you greater joy and happiness.

Jaquie Bishop and Mary Grunte, in their book, How To Forgive When You Don’t Know How, recommend you answer a series of statements, in order for you to examine your attitudes and resistances to forgiving:

“If I forgive, then………..I won’t be able to………”
“If I forgive, then………..the person will………….”
“If I forgive, then………..you’ll………………….”
“If I forgive, then………..people will……………..”
“If I forgive, then…………life will never…………”
“If I forgive, then…………no one will ever………..”
“If I forgive, then…………I’ll never………………”

Read each one out loud, asking, “and then? and then?” Here is an example: “If I forgive my wife, then I won’t be able to have anything to hold over her. And then? It will feel like I’ve condoned her behavior. And then? I’m afraid she will do it again. And then? I’ll go crazy and get really angry. And then?”

Lori Gordon, in her book Passage To Intimacy, poses some questions for you to address if you want to forgive. Write the answers down to the following questions:

I resent………..
I’m outraged by……..
I hate……………..
I needed……………
I feel hurt by……….
I am disappointed because………….
I feel awful because……………
I am afraid that……………..
I value………………….
I love……………..
I want………….
I hope………………..

Forgiveness means choosing to open to all that is in our lives, including the painful things in life. Like healing any other wound, forgiving someone usually takes time. If you want to forgive, redirect your attention to what creates satisfaction in your life, and reduce the investment you have in staying hurt and angry.

“Most of my colleagues brought Hitler with them when they came here to this country; they were constantly expressing anger and hostility and it eventually killed them. But I wanted to make sure that when I came to this country that he could not kill me, too.

“Letting go of the anger took years of thinking and praying. But this helped me: Moses…. “I have spoken to you about curse and blessing, about life and death. I say to you, Choose Life.

“So I chose life.”

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