How many times have we had to let something go that was bothering us even though we knew it was still stuck in our mind? Holding grudges not only damages relationships but also has the potential to be quite detrimental to our health. Think about how it feels when we hold things in and don’t address them. Does it make us sick to the stomach? Chances are, depending on how serious the problem is, it can even keep us up late at night. Forgiveness is the answer, and it isn’t something we do for the other people so much as for ourselves so that we can be happy.
What forgiveness is not.
Before we can truly start on our journey to forgiving someone who has done us wrong, we first need to understand what forgiveness is not.
It’s not weak.
First and foremost, forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When someone commits an act that truly hurts us, we’ll find ourselves almost completely overcome with anger and/or sadness. That emotion can consume us, making us susceptible to health problems and overall depression. Once we reach that state of mind, we almost become accustomed to feeling that way.
As a result, we get comfortable with the grief that has become part of life. When we forgive someone, we’re getting uncomfortable. We’re putting ourselves into a vulnerable state that might let that person back into our life to do it again, though of course we hope not. Clearly, taking that step takes real courage. Taking it is by no means weak; it’s one of the strongest things that a person can do.
It’s not passive.
Secondly, forgiveness isn’t the same thing as being passive. When we forgive, we’re doing it under the assumption that the person won’t do the same thing again. Therefore, if the person does it again, we have the right to take certain actions to ensure that we can’t be put into that situation again.
It’s not “excusing.”
Thirdly, forgiveness doesn’t mean that we’re excusing the offending act. In fact, part of the forgiveness process will involve having a conversation with the person about the situation. (We’ll get back to this in the next section.)
It’s not quick.
Lastly, forgiveness isn’t something that can happen all at once. One of the problems many people fall into when trying to forgive is that they expect to be able to forgive quickly. Depending on the severity of the offense, we might need days or even weeks to complete the forgiveness process. And while we indeed should take our time, let’s not let it take too long. We don’t want to go through it just to discover that we weren’t really ready.
Steps we should take to forgive.
Forgiveness isn’t something that can happen overnight. To truly forgive someone for hurting us or doing us wrong, we must take certain steps to completely move on with life. Let’s examine the most important of these steps below.
Step 1: Take a moment to reflect on the issue itself.
This is important because we don’t want to dwell on something that we weren’t overly concerned with. On the other hand, we may discover that there is much more to the issue than meets the eye. For example, a couple may have an argument about why one did not telephone back home after arriving at the supermarket.
Although the up-front issue is fairly minor, there may be an underlying issue of not wanting to be alone or not really trusting one another. Keep a small journal to write in that can help organize these thoughts. Let’s make sure we truly understand what has us so upset.
Step 2: Try to think about the positive.
As cliche as it may sound, we have to understand that everything happens for a reason. No matter what the situation, we need to think about the positive outcomes of the negative event that has happened. Maybe we have now discovered what someone’s true intentions are with us.
We may have even found out whether we really want to spend the rest of our life with this person. Or in a friendship, we may have even discovered that the friend can’t be trusted. Every negative situation always has some type of good takeaway. We must always learn from our own mistakes as well as those of others.
Step 3: Analyze the other person in the situation.
The previous step involved thinking about the positives of the situation. This step is similar in that we’re evaluating character. What made the other person act that way towards us, and what made the person think that would be acceptable? Was the person: A) simply trying to get even with us; B) being selfish by nature; or C) simply making a mistake? Sometimes, people will say things that hurt others without even knowing it.
A perfect example would be jokingly calling someone crazy when they have had struggles with their mental health in the past. The person may take it offensively when we were only kidding around. In this situation, no harm was intended, yet it could cause the other person to get very upset. Once getting to that stage, though, the person probably will instantly start feeling better. So Step 3 is important because it makes us think about the relationship in general and about how to go about completing Step 4, the final step.
Step 4: Decide how we want to go about making the forgiveness known.
The final step involves wiping our hands of the situation. In this step, we must either tell ourselves that we forgive the person, or tell the person that, or both, depending on what we decided in the previous step. E.g., if we no longer want to associate ourselves with the person, then by all means let’s keep it to ourselves. If, however, we want to keep the person in our life, then we must have a conversation expressing our forgiveness and our willingness to move forward.
Forgiveness is beautiful because it essentially frees us from negative energy and lets us use positive energy to better ourselves. Life is too short to hold grudges, so love hard and forgive often.
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