I see a lot of clients who struggle with forgiveness, whether it be forgiving someone who has wronged them or forgiving themselves for past behaviour. I often hear my clients express that they are aware that they need to forgive themselves or the other person but they aren’t sure where to start. One thing to remember is that forgiveness is an individual process with each person’s experience being unique due to their own personality traits, their personal values/beliefs and their past experiences. A person who has a history of trauma may find it difficult to forgive a friend who they feel has abused them in some way because of their past experiences and sensitivity to being mistreated by others. Also, some situations are more serious than others and have a greater emotional impact.
Forgiveness is a self-benefiting process, learning to let go of toxic emotions such as resentment will set you free from the amount of time, energy and painful thoughts that you dedicate to the experience. Refusing to forgive only hurts ourselves.
Here are a few things to consider when one is ready to start the process of forgiveness:
- Think about the situation and how you feel wronged by the person/yourself including how it has personally impacted your life.
- What impact is it still having on your life? Emotionally, socially, financially, etc.
- Can you look at the situation differently, with a new perspective, considering the individual’s individual struggles or life difficulties?
- Can you forgive parts of what happened as a start to the process? I recommend breaking the situation down into different hurts and working on forgiving one at a time. Be specific.
- What do you want to let go of the most?
- How will forgiving the person or yourself benefit you?
- How is not forgiving the person or yourself hurting you?
- What is the outcome that you would like to see? And what is within your control to work towards that outcome?
- Have you forgiven people in the past who have hurt you? How is the relationship now?
*some material adapted from Mind over Mood, Second Edition, Greenberger and Padesky.
Have a great day!