FORGIVENESS: FOUR VITAL STEPS
Forgiveness is a crucial aspect of life. It is also a part of
spirituality. Not long ago, I was soberly reminded of how essential forgiveness is when I read
the following excerpt:
For years I had been lecturing around the world that I’d never seen a serious health problem
where there was not an unforgiveness issue. Years later, I met Dr. Ben, who had been lecturing all over the
world and saying that he had never seen a cancer patient who did not have an unforgiveness issue! . . . Many
times, however, these people will say they do not have a forgiveness problem, or have already worked through
it, dealt with it years ago in counselling, or let it go in some form or fashion. Unforgiveness is often
betrayed by some form of anger or irritation or not wanting to be around a certain person. No matter what you
call it, it can kill you. [Alex Loyd and Ben Johnson, The Healing Code: 6 Minutes to Heal the Source of any Health, Success or Relationship
Issue (Peoria, Arizona: Intermedia Publishing Group, 2010), 241.]
This article gives four steps to enable you to
work through any unforgiveness issues you may be facing. More than simply “forgive and forget” may be needed
because the reality for many is that they have never been able to forget certain experiences in their lives.
The four elements are:
· Knowing (what forgiveness is)
(A mnemonic to remember these four elements is KNOB – for getting a grip on
1. Knowing (what forgiveness is)
a. Forgiveness is both a personal decision and process to pardon another or oneself for self-healing, and so be able to get on
with one’s own life.
b. Forgiveness is letting go
of the desire to punish myself or others, or to get even and take revenge on the other.
c. Forgiveness – the letting go of my desire to punish or get even – means that I let go of my
self-punishment by releasing
the energy I use to keep the hurt alive. Unforgiveness saps psychological and spiritual energy, breeds
negativity and cynicism, and results in passive aggressiveness and spiritual ennui. Know that a part of you dies when you hold on to
a hurt or a grudge for years! It will affect your self-esteem, spontaneity, laughter, energy, and
d. Forgiveness is to pardon
the person involved. It involves seeing the person as separate from his or her actions, and to
realize that the person is created and loved by God.
e. Forgiveness does not
require the other’s permission, approval, or knowledge (because the other person may not be aware
that you have been hurt by something he or she said or did).
f. Forgiveness involves the gradual realization that I cannot control
g. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is mutual forgiveness, if and when this can happen. Reconciliation is a process
in which persons experience enough mutual trust to come together in order to ask for and receive forgiveness
from each other. It is based on a win/win premise related to differences, rather than the dualistic
right/wrong or win/lose premise. (There is also an ongoing willingness to continue this process of
a. Name the hurt and pain – when you can name your hurt and pain, you have embarked on the first step of
b. Don’t deny or try to forget the event, or think it wasn’t as bad as you had “imagined”, or
believe in some way that you deserved what happened
c. Let go of the secrecy, shame, and guilt that may be part of your inability to get on with your life.
d. Tell your story to a trusted listener, or simply write out your story, and you will feel
believed and accepted as you remember the details of what another said or did, and how it affected
e. Realize that the other person may not know how you felt hurt.
f. Remember, however, forgiveness is a personal decision and process – you don’t need the other
person’s permission, approval, or knowledge. As the one who has felt the pain and hurt, you alone decide to
g. Accept that for certain reasons, you may not be able to go to the offending person. For example, you may not feel
“safe” in one way or another.
a. Fully feel in your being what you have experienced in the painful event. Realize that it is all right to feel – to be in touch with your God-given
emotions. Acknowledge that it is normal and natural to feel such emotions. Own the depth of the emotions.
Also, be gentle with yourself in having felt pain and hurt in the situation.
b. Realize that you are the
author of what you feel – no one can make you feel any emotion. Gradually move away from thinking
“You hurt me” to “I felt hurt when you said or did
c. Know also it is your
interpretation of an event, action, or word that results in what you feel. Such interpretation
comes from your own socialization, training, values, biases and prejudices.
d. Don’t condone the hurt, injustice, violence, or breach of trust you have experienced – owning is not condoning.
e. Avoid self-blame
(“if only I hadn’t said or done . . .”) or a victim mentality (“I deserved this . . .”).
f. Remember that keeping
yourself in a victim role is giving over your personal power and responsibility for your life to
another! Also, replaying “tapes” of hurt and pain simply means not taking personal responsibility.
g. Realize that owning the hurt and pain does not necessarily mean that you will continue or renew your relationship with the
a. Integrate your hurt into your life as a part of your life after naming and owning your
b. Look back and learn to say that “I am who I am today because of – not in spite of – that
critical incident, that event, the hurt, the pain.”
c. Realize that blessing the hurt is a coming home to who I really am amid life’s sorrows and
d. Recognize that at times, life just doesn’t seem fair, and focus on how you respond to life in
e. Remember that your life consists of both the expected (where you may feel you have control over what is happening) and the
unexpected (where you realize
how little control you have in many areas, including what another person says or does).
f. Live as fully as you can in the unexpected as you plan and live the expected.
g. Learn to bless both the unexpected and expected in your life.
a. Live in the now. To move on – which is an integral part of forgiveness – stems from the decision to live in the
b. Let go of the past, as you work through it – as you name, own, and bless it.
c. Don’t regret the past in moving on, but remember it in order to heal yourself.
d. Recognize that you are moving on when you’re able to remember a critical incident of the past
without feeling the horrific hurt and pain that once accompanied the memory.
e. Realize that although you may always feel a certain sadness as you remember a particular event,
your psychological and spiritual energy is no longer drained by it.
f. Remember that it goes without saying that prayer is integral to the decision and process of forgiveness.
g. Finally, another aspect of prayer in the journey of forgiveness
and healing is asking God to “take away our stony hearts and give us hearts of flesh instead” (Ezekiel
36:26), especially when we sense within ourselves an inclination to hold on to the hurt and
Source: Notes based on the following article – Malone, Janet. “Forgive But Don’t Forget”. Human Development 15:2 (Summer 1994):
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