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FIVE STEPS TO FORGIVENESS — by Catherine Morgan
When we are angry at people in are life. When we aren’t talking to people in our life. When we hate people in our life. When we are doing these things, we are weakening ourselves, we are hurting ourselves, we are hating ourselves. That is because, when we don’t forgive, we are allowing our heart to be weighed down with negativity. But, we already know that. So why do we do it? Why don’t we forgive?
My theory is; that we really don’t know how to forgive. I mean, saying you “forgive” someone, isn’t really “forgiving” them, is it? What if there were actually steps you could take to forgive? Kind of a “12 step” program for forgiveness, only with less steps. See if this works for you. Because, when you forgive someone, you are pushing anger out of your heart and making more room for love to get in, and love is what really matters.
STEP ONE: WHY ARE YOU ANGRY AT THIS PERSON? You would not believe how many people are angry about something and don’t even remember why. So get a piece of paper out and write down why you are mad at this person. It may be one thing, or it may be a whole list. Just write it all down.
STEP TWO: THE GOOD THINGS. On another piece of paper write down all the good things this person has done for you over the years. (ie: If it’s your mother; she gave birth to you, that’s a pretty big one.) Did this person ever make you happy? Do anything nice for you? Make you smile or laugh? Be a good friend? Help you out of a jam? If so, write it down….all of it. This could be a long list or a short list, just make sure you make it an “honest” list.
STEP THREE: HOW DID I CONTRIBUTE TO THIS? On a third piece of paper write any way you may have contributed to the conflict. Be honest with yourself. It doesn’t help to think that you are totally without any responsibility in the situation, even if it is just a tiny bit. Write it down.
STEP FOUR: CONTEMPLATE. With all three papers in front of you, take some time to really think how important this person is to you. Are they someone you wish was still in your life? Is it someone that you could never feel good having in your life anymore. Are they family? Ex? Depending on “who” they are to you, will depend on what type of relationship you choose to have with this person after you forgive them. Remember, you are forgiving this person for yourself, not for them. So, if you think it is better for you not to see this person, then so be it. You may decide that for the sake of your children or your family it would be better to allow this person back into your life. Or, you might realize you have been miserable without this person in your life and want them back.
What ever the case is, spend a significant amount of time thinking about it. You have probably spent a significant amount of time being angry, so a little extra time trying to figure out what is in your best interest regarding this person won’t hurt.
You may want to stay on this step for more than just a day. Maybe a week. Or more. It doesn’t matter how long you are on this step. Just put the papers in a place you can review them. You might even want to do these steps with someone else in your life. If forgiving hasn’t been your “thing”, you may have a lot of people to do this exercise with. That’s OK, don’t be hard on yourself, just take the time and do the work, and in the end you are the one that will benefit.
When you are ready continue to Step Five. No rush.
STEP FIVE: FORGIVE. Forgiving doesn’t mean “forgetting”, a lot of people don’t quite understand that. We are not computers, we can’t just hit the delete button and erase our past history. Although, at times many of us wish we could, (me included). We are talking about forgiveness, so you can forgive and let the anger go (for your own sake and sanity), remembering is o.k. though. Remembering might even prove to be quite helpful. You may find yourself in a similar situation one day, and remembering might help you choose your reaction differently than you had before this happened. This is where the saying “learn from you mistakes” came from. It’s not a judgment on your behavior, just a reminder that you handled something one way and it didn’t turn out quite the way your would have wanted. So the next time, you might do something much differently based on your increased understanding.
So, to get back to the final step, STEP FIVE. Now that you have all the information in front of you, and you have given it all quite a bit of thought, and figured out what is in YOUR best interest. Now it’s time to FORGIVE. LET IT GO. LET GO OF THE ANGER. LET GO OF THE PAIN. Let go of allowing this to keep putting negative thoughts in your head. You need that room for positive, healthy, loving thoughts.
Maybe, even take some time to close your eyes and meditate on letting go of the anger and pain. If you don’t normally meditate; Just close your eyes for a few moments in a quite place. Try to let go of your thoughts for a moment. Now picture in your “minds eye” all the negative thoughts and anger leaving your head, like vapor evaporating from a pot, slowly but consistently, until there is no more to let go.
Do you feel better? If so, you did it right. You don’t even have to tell the person that you forgave them. The important thing is that you let it go, it no longer haunts you, it no longer consumes your thoughts. At this point you can either take steps to smooth things out with the person, and start from a healthier place…Or keep your distance if you have decided that was what was best for you. There is no right or wrong way to to do this. The right way is whatever works best for you.
If you realise you just don’t feel any better after STEP FIVE, then go back to STEP FOUR. You may just need more time, and that is OK. Remember….No pressure, this is at YOUR pace.
Once you feel confident that you have truly let go of this “in your head”, not just “in your words”. Once you realize that, rip up your paper from STEP ONE, maybe symbolically burn it, just something that helps you recognizes your accomplishment of putting this behind you. But, keep the other papers from STEPS TWO AND THREE. Just in case something comes up again with this person, and you want to go through this process again, you will still have all the more “positive” things saved.
Well, good luck. I hope this helps you let go of some of the negative feelings and thoughts that have been weighing hard on you. If these steps have helped you, please leave a comment, I would love to hear your success stories.