Trust can be seen as a potential benefit to the injured forgiving party, and is necessary precursor of forgiveness. Gandhi contended that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. People often confuse the act of forgiveness with condoning, excusing, pardoning and forgetting.
- condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness)
- excusing (not holding the person or group responsible for the action)
- pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge)
- forgetting (removing awareness of the offence from consciousness; to forgive is more than just not thinking about the offence).
The family is the primary arena in which one learns to forgive. Forgiveness is critical to sustaining healthy family relationships. Those we love are often the ones we are most likely to hurt. The capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most important factors contributing to marital longevity and marital satisfaction. Benefits of forgiveness include improved mental and physical health, restored sense of personal power, help bring reconciliation, promote hope for resolution of real-world intergroup conflicts.
Stanford Northern Ireland HOPE Project on Forgiveness: 9 Steps to Forgiveness
- Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
- Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
- Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story”.
- Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes –or ten years- ago.
- At the moment you feel upset, practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s fight or flight response.
- Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health, or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
- Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
- Remember that a life well lived is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain to have power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
Elizabeth Curd is a counselor educator in the great mitten state of Michigan. She specializes in helping the Millennial and Generation X population, specifically: surviving adolescence, navigating adulthood, career development and organizational management. She works in East Lansing, MI.