6 steps to better forgiving
- Choose one person you need to forgive.
- Recall a specific memory, the whole painful ordeal, as vividly as possible. List your feelings and the cause of your anger. Name the loss or diminishment you have experienced.
- Empathize by trying to understand the other person's view and by understanding that you, too, are capable of hurting others. (Even Mother Teresa said she knew there was an Adolf Hitler inside of her.) You might list 10 facts, not opinions, you know about the person who hurt you. Try to see a fuller picture of the person.
- Reflect and pray on this. Imagine how forgiveness would change the situation. Don't minimize what happened but focus on your choice to release the person from condemnation. You might write a letter to yourself, expressing all the things you want the person who hurt you to say to you.
- Discuss your thoughts and feelings with a trusted person.
- Consider whether reconciliation is desirable or possible.
You may need to go through this many times before it's possible to forgive. Expect setbacks. You know you have forgiven when you can recall the wrong without reliving the feelings. That's the best signal that your relationship with your past has changed.
Adapted from To Forgive is Human, Michael E. McCullough (IVP, 1997); and Forgiving the People You Love to Hate, Judy Logue (Liguori, 1997).
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