Monday, October 22, 2007
How to Forgive
After years of discussing hurt and forgiveness, some things have come into focus. There are four elements necessary for healthy forgiveness:
1. Express the Emotion - Whatever the crime/injustice/violation/slight, the forgiver needs to fully express how it made him feel. Anger, sadness and fear are common responses. By the way, it is ideal if the victim is able to express her emotions to her perpetrator, but not essential.
2. Rebuild Security - In order to forgive, the forgiver needs to feel a reasonable amount of assurance that the violation won't recur. Let's say you step on my toe. In order for me to rebuild security, I'm going to need some verbal commitment from you that you'll try not to step on my toe again, or I need to decide to keep my feet away from yours, etc. Some mechanism needs to be in place to let me know I'm safe again.
3. Understand - The forgiver needs to develop some framework to understand why the violation happened in the first place. Why was my toe stepped on? We're on a crowded train? You're a clumsy dancer? You hate me? Oh, you're drunk, I understand. The brain will search for this reason and can't stop (or forgive) until it has one.
4. Let Go - This is making a conscious decision to drop the grudge and resentment. It's the hardest step for most people. Holding a grudge is a powerful thing - you can get someone to suck up to you for years by lording his misbehavior over him. Letting go means stepping down from the nobility of victimhood, becoming an equal again, and promising not to point back to her infraction every time you're losing an argument. Letting go is not forgetting - most of us can't choose what we remember. It's choosing to return to a place of equal power.
Research shows forgiveness greatly benefits the physical health of the forgiver. Seems that holding a grudge is bad for you.