Harboring anger, resentment, and disappointment is not healthy. In fact, it can cause or intensify significant health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, depression, muscle-tension, along with many other medical issues. Choosing to forgive may help alleviate or even prevent symptoms associated with each of the above-mentioned health problems. But forgiveness can be scary. “If I don’t hold this person accountable by holding on to my anger, then who will?” Some think that they are punishing the offender by holding on to anger, resentment, or disappointment, however, in most cases the offender is unaffected. Choosing to forgive and working through the process of forgiveness will help the forgiver live with a greater sense of joy and hope. I encourage everyone to choose forgiveness rather than harboring their anger and resentment.
How do you forgive?
Step by Step Forgiveness:
1. Find Your Motivation:
This process starts with understanding your motivation to forgive. Why forgive? There may be several reasons to forgive someone, but only one reason will suffice. Here are a few reasons people may choose to forgive:
Exhaustion from holding on to the anger and pain.
A desire to restore relationship.
My faith encourages forgiveness. (religious reasons)
Motivated by love.
A desire to live in peace free from anger and resentment.
2. Commit to the Process:
Forgiveness, especially of deep wounds, requires a commitment to “work the process.” Facing issues that have caused any kind of pain can be challenging, and the desire to avoid the challenge often keeps people living with the anger. Make up your mind to start and finish this process. Be determined. Don’t hesitate to invite a close friend or seeking out a trained counselor to walk with you through this process.
3. Explore the Dept of your Pain and Accept It:
Complete forgiveness requires a complete understanding of how painful the experience was to the victim. The forgiver must take responsibility for their pain and acknowledge their right to justice. Then, choose to accept the pain by acknowledging what was lost or taken due to the injustice. For example; your spouse forgot to blow out a candle before leaving the house and as a result the house burnt down destroying everything that holds sentimental and monetary value. To forgive your spouse, you must grieve the loss of those things and accept the idea that they will never be returned. Grieve! As grief evolves, it moves towards acceptance. Accept that what happened is now part or your story, but acknowledge that just because it happened does not make it right nor does it define you. Grief and acceptance are vital aspects of forgiveness.
4. Choose to offer Grace and Mercy:
The motivation behind the choice to forgive should be examined throughout this process. The decision to offer grace and mercy will be directly related to the initial motive. Whatever the reason, now is the time to consider a gesture that would symbolize that the resentment has been overcome. Some encourage the idea of giving the offender a gift, others suggest throwing a rock into a lake or the ocean. Whatever symbol is chosen, the result should help the forgiver release their anger and experience relief. If reconciliation is desired, this is the opportunity to reconnect. If reconciliation is not desired, the offering is a way to solidify that fact that the forgiver has truly overcome the resentment.
5. Discover the meaning and Purpose:
When forgiveness has been accomplished, there is often a feeling of release, a weight has been lifted, and now freedom is experienced. There is an opportunity to evaluate the process and often a discovery is made. The forgiver has transcended human nature and has taken on a God-like characteristic. Forgiveness has often been described as a quandary or a conundrum. It does not make sense in the human mind to give-up a right to resentment or justice.
There are echoes of the gospel in forgiveness. Man, offended God – God forgives man, not by denying justice, but rather offering forgiveness and reconciliation through the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son. He modeled forgiveness for us and encourages us to experience the blessings of forgiveness.
Ryan Dunlap, LPC