Written by Ashlee Cantrell, LPC-A
There are many scenarios where people are hurt by the ones they love. For example, friends hurt each other, parents leave their children at young ages, partners commit adultery, violence occurs within many homes, and so much more. Imagine one scenario where you were hurt by someone you loved or who was supposed to love you. Now, imagine an alternative scenario where the person who hurt you asked for your forgiveness. Would you be able to forgive them? Unfortunately, this happens every day; people get hurt by others, and whether by guilt or to solve conflict, they attempt to come back and beg for forgiveness. So, what would you do? Let’s find out if forgiveness is the answer.
What is Forgiveness?
When people talk about forgiveness, it can sound scary and impossible. As children, we were taught that saying “I forgive you” was the answer to solving conflict and fixing a relationship. However, as we have grown, the purpose of forgiveness has developed a much deeper meaning. Forgiveness means allowing yourself to release any negative emotions, letting go of bitterness and anger, and moving towards the freedom to feel at peace with your memories of the event, the person, and with yourself—regardless of whether the person acknowledges their wrongdoing or apologizes. As adults, forgiveness means relinquishing yourself from allowing others to affect you negatively. Now, let’s pause. Is this even possible? Well, let’s see. Forgiveness requires a complex set of skills that involves these four tasks:
- deciding to forgive
- acknowledging the event, the person, and the relationship through discussion
- removing negative emotions and processing memories of the event through detoxification
- learning how to move forward and finding peace
These four tasks are crucial in allowing the process of forgiveness to set in place. Oftentimes without forgiveness, people are not given the option to move forward. With this, they do not get the opportunity to let go. We have all heard the phrase: “forgive and forget.” This is a common misconception. In actuality, the purpose of forgiveness is to allow a person to let go of the pain that was done to them or to let go of the person that caused them pain so that they can live their life in peace. So, that person in your mind that you’ve been thinking of while you’ve been reading this? YES, that one! Was it someone close to you? Is it you?
Self-Forgiveness, What is That?
Forgiving yourself is very similar to forgiving others, but sometimes it can be more difficult. It may be easier to acknowledge that other people make mistakes and to have sympathy. However, you may be much harder and less generous to yourself. Therefore, learning how to forgive yourself is crucial for your well-being and mental health. Self-forgiveness is not a “get out of jail” free card, but rather a way to allow yourself to accept responsibility for your actions and to learn from your mistakes for the purpose of growth and a peaceful mindset. In order to forgive yourself, you should:
- Accept responsibility for your actions
- Treat yourself with kindness and empathy
- Process your emotions
- Make amends and apologize
- Look for ways to learn from the event
- Focus on making better choices in the future
Now that we know what self-forgiveness looks like, can you learn how to forgive yourself using our four steps to forgiveness? Absolutely! Let’s try.
- Making the decision to forgive yourself = accepting responsibility for your actions
- Discussing the event/person/relationship = discussing the event, processing emotions, learning from the event
- Detoxify the negative emotions from the event = processing emotions, personal kindness, and compassion
- Devote yourself to moving forward and finding peace = personal kindness and compassion, make amends and apologize, focus on making better future choices
Taking the First Step
To make things seem a little easier, let’s break it down. By now, you’ve acknowledged that someone, or even maybe yourself, has been holding you back from enjoying a peaceful mindset.
You are not alone. Upstate Restorative Counseling has created a counseling group specifically to help adults (18+) just like you who struggle with forgiveness and finding inner peace. Our group, called FREEd and Forgiven, is a 6-week processing group that helps with a basic understanding of forgiveness, and how to practice forgiveness based on Ripley and Worthington’s (2014) forgiveness and reconciliation through experiencing empathy (FREE) model. More information to come. **
At the beginning of the post, you were asked if you believe it to be possible for you to forgive the person who hurt you. After reading this post, does your answer remain the same? If there is hope in you that forgiveness is possible, join us for our counseling group at Upstate Restorative Counseling. If group counseling is not your cup of tea but you still seek professional help, URC is still here for you!