The process of forgiveness varies from person to person. However, many go through the steps that follow. It can be helpful to see each one, let us know we aren't alone with how we feel; that others have and do feel similiar things and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.
Steps to opening your heart to forgiveness, How do we begin to forgive?
- First step is to recognize that forgiveness is a choice, remember that the pain of the past is inescapable, but continuing to suffer is optional.
- The essence of forgiveness is the ability to be resilient when things don’t go the way we want and wisdom arrives when we can have a memory without the emotional charge.
- Forgiveness is a process, a verb. It is not a one time event. It takes time and work and practice.
- We must believe that we have been forgiven if its ourselves. All major faith traditions include forgiveness as a central value.
The Process Often Looks Like This:
Waking up: We have an awakening of sorts, we recognize that something is blocking us and we start to feel more (or again). We begin to change the story we tell as a (helpless) victim. That story is really the worst thing we can do, a story of a helpless victim creates a helpless immune system. Our body becomes trained to this, but the good news is, once we change this, we begin to give our body new pathways to take.
Anger and resentment: Emotions are very high during this stage. Anger and resentment are real and raw. They seem to infiltrate all parts of your mind.
Sadness and hurt: You may feel sad and hurt now. If you can, tell the offender how you feel. What this offense has done to you. How it has impacted your life. Otherwise tell a trusted friend, your dog or a stuffed animal. Just say what you feel. In some studies, venting in a journal has shown to have the same effects as venting to a therapist. Shout your emotions. Throw eggs at a tree. Let it out!
Integration: You get it. You are working your way thru the process and you begin to feel less and less preoccupied and resentful and start to feel that freed up energy. What happened happened, wanting reality to be different is hopeless. Thinking is should have been different is useless. It is what it is. When you stop fighting what is, acceptance begins to arrive. This doesn't mean you agree with, condone, or like what happened. It just means you are no longer fighting with the fact that it did. This is the time to look at the value of forgiveness. Ask when I loose the resentment and anger, what will I gain? Every situation in life, especially the painful, negative ones, can teach us something. Especially in the case of not being able to forgive easily…ask when you are ready, when you have went through the emotions, through the anger, through the hurt and normal range of emotions, ask "What is it I'm being taught?", "What is the lesson?" Start practicing serious gratitude. Say thank you. Often. The world has given you enough. When you say I am ok, this is ok, you create a mind body experience that is healthy and positive and feels good. It suddenly matters very little what happened when you were 22 years old, or 5 years ago, or yesterday.
Reinvestment: We take our new found energy and apply it to something else, better, more empowering and positive. You are finally valuing your own peace of mind, more than a grudge. The decision is that you have decided to love yourself more than anything else. Forgiveness is peace in the present. No matter what has happened, I am at peace now. Forgiveness is no longer allowing someone to walk through your mind with their filthy boots. It is truly comprehending the fact that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. You have let go and now you are going to reinvest in you!