I’ve been teaching forgiveness for more than a decade, and the simple definition of forgiveness that I work with now is that it’s the ability to make peace with the word “no.”
The essence of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want – to be at peace with “no,” be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward and live your life without prejudice.
It’s the absence of prejudice that informs forgiveness. You realise that nobody owes you, that you don’t have to take the hurt you suffered and pay it forward to someone else. Just because your last partner was unkind to you doesn’t mean you always have to give your new partner the third degree. With an open heart, you move forward and accept what is, without prejudice.
You don’t just accept it because life sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it – though that may be true – but you accept it in a way that leaves you willing to give the next moment a chance.
Here are nine steps to forgiveness:
*Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not okay. Then, tell a couple of trusted people about your experience.
*Make a commitment to yourself to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and no one else.
*Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling with the person who upset you or condoning the action. In forgiveness you seek the peace and understanding that come from blaming people less after they offend you and taking those offenses less personally.
*Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognise that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not from what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or 10 years – ago.
*At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response.
*Give up expecting things from your life or from other people that they do not choose to give you. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, friendship, and prosperity, and work hard to get them. However, these are “unenforceable rules.” You will suffer when you demand that these things occur, since you do not have the power to make them happen.
*Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.
*Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, learn to look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.
*Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.