So someone hurt your feelings. Do you get angry whenever you hear their name mentioned? Have you made plotting revenge a favorite pastime? If so, you may be a victim — a captive of your inability to let go of the hurt caused by others and move on with your life. Fortunately, you don’t have to remain angry. Your ability to forgive others is one of the most important tools on your road to emotional recovery.
Forgiveness, essentially, is the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is the result of their wrongdoing. It does not, however, result in that transgression being wiped from your memory. It can give hope and stimulate reconciliation. It recognizes and honestly handles the flaws, failures and fallibility that exist in every human being and in every relationship.
There are several steps that can help you free yourself of bad feelings and enable you to practice the art of forgiveness. Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., a Boulder, Colorado-based communications consultant and corporate trainer, offers four:
- Get in touch with your anger. It’s the most destructive and spiritually demanding emotion to hold on to and carry around. To release it, you’ll first have to pinpoint its cause. (i.e., was it your offender’s words that hurt you, or something else?)
- Prepare your message. When you decide to forgive someone, you should know what you’re going to say ahead of time. When it comes time to offer
- your forgiveness, remember not to be condescending. Maintain a level of respect, for yourself and the listener.
- Pick an appropriate time and place. These should be negotiated with the other party involved. A neutral territory is usually best. You don’t want to make it seem like you have an unfair advantage. That will only make matters worse.
- Don’t look for a “thank you.” Remember, true forgiveness is unselfish. It doesn’t expect anything in return. Besides, sometimes the person you want to forgive may not think they need it because they don’t feel like they’ve done anything wrong. But even if they do, your satisfaction should come from your decision to release bad feelings and offer pardon.