It has taken over fifty years for me to begin to discover the power of forgiveness. A surprising corollary to that understanding has been that, whenever I stop assigning power to the person or event that hurt me, I am a happier person. Every time I find the strength to forgive someone, something good rushes in to fill the space my resentment once occupied. It’s as if condemnation, with its far-reaching and evil tentacles, tries to stifle goodness. It takes persistence, desire and vigilance to achieve forgiveness.
Since Sunday-school teachers drilled it, grade-school teachers recited it, and high-school teachers demanded it, I have tried to live by the Golden Rule to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you.” I have done a fair-to-middling job in that practice. Where I have been most deficient is in tearing up the list of misdeeds I have suffered. In self-indulgent moments, I imagine a long-robed judge sitting through my recitation of the wrongs I have endured. Her head nods in silent encouragement as I pour forth with my sorry tales. Finally, she sets forth her judgment, proclaiming as justified and warranted my feelings of anger and resentment. Her legitimization leaves me righteous and satisfied. I am left with a twinge of disappointment when my fabricated Goddess fades from view.
When we suffer an injustice or hurt by another, we rush to judge them and condemn them for having made us suffer. That anger is pernicious. Before long, it becomes the dye in which our world is colored. Hard-earned experience has taught me that forgiveness is like an invisible contract we have to make between ourselves and the ghost of the person who hurt us.
To break it down, there are seven steps to practicing forgiveness.
Seven Steps to Forgiveness
1. Acknowledge your feelings of anger and resentment.
2. Identify why you have these emotions.
3. Allow yourself time to experience these feelings.
4. Desire the release that forgiveness offers.
5. Picture how things would be without this negativity in your life.
Practice blame-free living in short bursts.
Dig deep and offer light and goodness to the person or people who hurt you. Repeat “I forgive you, I release you, I am letting you go.”
6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you feel detached from the person or people that hurt you.
7. Accept that forgiveness is a process. Expect to go three steps forward and two steps back. Blame and resentment can resurface without warning. Be prepared to renew your efforts.
Forgiveness is an act that demands that we let go our sense of the injustice we have suffered. When we release our judgments and seek understanding instead, we are giving
to others what we would ask for ourselves. We must not forgive once, twice nor even seventeen times. We must forgive until we find only love in our hearts; be assured that love comes back to us and multiplies. Through forgiveness, there is redemption. In forgiveness, we are made whole.