It seems like I often find myself talking to client’s about forgiveness and its power to heal. Many of the people I work with have been hurt in different ways and are holding on to anger and resentments that are not serving them well anymore. They also seem to have a misunderstanding about what it means to forgive. So here are 5 important considerations when working toward forgiveness.
1. Honor the anger first. Many times we have very good reasons for our anger. Maybe we were hurt or abused in some way. These feelings need to be heard and respected but not necessarily acted upon.
2. Seek Justice. Anger is a natural emotion and serves the purpose of helping us seek out justice, fix a problem, or right a wrong. It gives us the drive and energy to do this and ,when guided by our reason and intellect, anger can serve us well.
3. Accept the outcome. Whether justice was served or not there comes a point where your anger is no longer useful. The trick is knowing when this happens and accepting that the outcome of your efforts is out of your control.
4. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to forget. In fact sometimes it is important to remember in order to protect yourself from future harm. Some people, even family members, may be toxic in your life. Forgiveness does not mean continuing to subject yourself to these toxic people.
5. Forgiveness means letting go of the emotional baggage. Anger, hate, and resentment are intense emotions that create physical energy in your body that can be damaging when not resolved. Forgiveness is the process of learning to let go of these emotions when they are no longer doing anything constructive.
This process is often challenging and many people can benefit from working with a therapist, particularly when they have a history of trauma or abuse.