Updated: May 21
The word "forgiveness" is generally defined by phycologists as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness.
It is equally important to become aware and recognize what "forgiveness" is not.
Many subject matter experts have clarified that forgiving does not mean that the seriousness of an offense against you is being denied or shoved under a rug. Most certainly, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. In other words, although forgiveness plays a significant role in rebuilding relationships, there is no obligation attached to reconcile with the offender.
Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind, freeing them from toxic anger.
After a study from the University of Berkley, there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender. Experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings.
It is imperative to go through the empowering process of recognizing the pain you suffered and not allowing such pain to define who you really are and how you operate throughout life from that point on.
Some studies suggest that there are health benefits associated with forgiving. When you can forgive, scientists have reported the risk of heart attack is lower, and harmful cholesterol levels and sleep improve. And if this is not enough, an improvement in blood pressure, anxiety, depression and stress levels.
The challenge is that forgiveness takes work, and most people do not know where to start. So, when you are ready to do the work, you can use the following formula (easy to remember, 4 R's):
Forgiveness = Responsibility + Remorse + Restoration + Renewal
Let's dissect this, shall we?
1) Responsibility: take ownership, recognize and accept what happened, and show compassion. Ownership is the cornerstone of leadership. Be unafraid to take and establish ownership.
2) Remorse: Use guilt and remorse as a gateway to positive behavior change. A great way to do this is to look at yourself in the mirror and see what you could have done differently, either directly or indirectly. If you had no control over the situation, think of how you could have controlled your feelings or perceptions differently. Recognize that guilt is a sign that your moral compass is working. But do not buy into feeling guilty about something that is not your responsibility.
3) Restoration: Make amends with whomever you forgive, even if it's yourself. To make amends with yourself, you must realize how you hurt yourself by putting yourself in that situation or allowing something specific to happen. Then, have a plan not to do it again. The same concept applies to making amends with others.
4) Renewal: Learn from the experience and grow as a person. When you go through a painful experience, you must take that opportunity to reflect and learn from it. The precious time and space you make for reflection is an investment in the future. Learning will allow you to make different decisions in the future.
You will feel liberated once you can acknowledge your feelings of bitterness or betrayal. Your feelings ARE real!
You will feel liberated once you understand why the person did what they did (know that this is not always an option, but there is always an explanation for people's behavior). Empathy always makes it easier to forgive.
You will feel liberated once you can abandon your feelings of resentment.
Everything in life is a choice (a concept I am willing to elaborate on another time). Forgiveness is a choice.
Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a state.
A person can’t wait until they feel like forgiving. Forgiveness is a choice you make to move forward. Eventually, the feeling will follow.
The choice to forgive doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a one-time decision. Forgiveness is a process. It takes time. Sometimes something will happen, and old feelings of anger will suddenly surface. You then have to make the choice once more to forgive and release the person.
But, what happens when the person you need to forgive is yourself? As crazy as this may sound, forgiving yourself is often more complex than forgiving someone else.
Let that sink in.
Maybe you blame yourself for going to the party that night. You wonder why you never noticed all the signs you saw regarding that relationship. Perhaps you ask yourself why you did not say "no" or why you didn't say "yes." Maybe you still question yourself about that job you didn't take or that call you didn't make. Or, you wish you would have stuck up for yourselves all those years ago.
Behind every hurt you have experienced, there is ALWAYS an opportunity to forgive yourself.
Maybe the idea of forgiving oneself seems silly. You wonder why a person would need to forgive themselves.
The truth is people often blame themselves, not just those who’ve hurt them.
When you finally decide to be done with this pattern, try the following:
1. Uncover your anger. Unveil or comprehend why you are outraged, feel judged, question yourself, suffer from imposter syndrome... or whatever you can relate that "hurt" to.
2. Establish how it is affecting you. Recognize in what ways you are avoiding dealing with it. Define how this experience has changed how you operate as a human and how you see the world.
3. Decide to forgive. After you have been through steps #1 & #2, you can consciously choose to change. In this step, understanding and compassion are key to accepting the pain from that experience. This will, in turn, help you move forward.
4. Discover & Release yourself from the Emotional Prison. At this point, you will unveil your internal need to forgive and move on. This is when you begin to walk in the freedom of forgiveness.
Forgiving yourself is not easy, because you are digging in areas from the past that in many cases, you did not even remember you had experienced. Most of the time, we do not even want to go there. Why? Simple. Because IT IS PAINFUL!
Despite of this, the choice to forgive is freeing.
Forgiving will help restore and heal your soul.
Are you ready to forgive?