Learning to Forgive
There's always room to talk about forgiveness. The definition is important:
It's not continuing to allow that person to victimize you. It's about not "renting out space" in your mind/life to the person who did this to you.
- Forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender — forgiveness is for you.
- Forgiveness does not condone what happened — or pretend it didn't happen.
- It's about achieving personal peace — and continuing to live. If they didn't want to do that, they wouldn't have shown up.
Dr Fred Luskin has a written a book entitled "Forgive For Good" (Harper Collins, 2010) that sets out a program for forgiveness training proven in the most difficult of circumstances. What follows is a condensation of that program into a few words — but reading the book is also recommended.
Step 1: Preparation
Calm yourself by thinking about past feelings of peacefulness, love, happiness and security. This is your resource state. Go back to it whenever you start to think of the challenge you are trying to overcome.
Step 2: Challenging your unenforceable rules
- Recognize that when you feel hurt, alienation, depression, anger or similar that your feelings may be coming from memories of the past, even though you are experiencing the effects in the present
- Ask yourself "what was my expectation?" You will see that it is almost always about the violation of a rule or expectation that you have for yourself, but that may not be shared by everyone else. This is an "unenforceable rule", because you can't control what is in the hearts and minds of others
- Remind yourself that your hurt comes from trying to enforce an unenforceable rule
- Assert your willingness to challenge your unenforceable rule.
- Ask “What experience in my life am I thinking of right now that I am demanding to be different?"
- In your mind, change the demand to a hope
- Notice how things shift
Step 3: Find the Positive Intention
- What was my reason for being here? Express the hope for change in positive terms
- Create a positive intention from the hope
- Make the intention to not tell the grievance story any more, and instead tell the positive intention to yourself and others.
The HEAL Method
- Develop a hope statement ("I had hoped that...") that expresses your intention.
- Educate — No matter how positive the intention, we don't always get what we want.
- Affirm that you will go on and embody your positive long term goal that you had underlying this intention.
- Make a Long Term commitment to continue the process, follow positive intentions, even when difficult, and strive ever closer to the positive intention by learning the skills needed to achieve it.