How to Reach Forgiveness

Forgiveness is necessary both for your personal health and the health of your marriage and other relationships. But forgiveness, much like apologizing, is almost never easy, especially if you have been badly hurt or traumatized by someone you love or for whom you care deeply. Whether you hold resentment for your spouse or your in-laws, you must find forgiveness in your heart, so you can move on with the relationship in a healthy way and find true happiness. Here is some help on how to reach forgiveness—

Talk through your feelings.

Assuming you want to maintain a relationship with the person you are trying to forgive (and that should be the case for a spouse or in-law), you have to find a way to communicate why you are angry and what needs to be done to reach resolution and compromise. Sometimes, this will happen in one conversation; other times, it will happen over the course of many discussions over weeks, months, or even years. That’s all right, as long as the relationship forges ahead in a positive light, and the communication remains civilized. If you feel as though you are being heard, you are more likely to forgive.

Write down why you are angry.

If communication is difficult or the person you need to forgive is no longer apart of your life, then try writing a letter to him or her, which you can later throw away or burn. The important factor is to get your feelings in writing, so you can more easily let go of the resentment that has built inside of you. “People don’t need to know that you’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness is more for you than for the other person,” writes Elizabeth Scott, the Guide to Stress Management. “Research shows that journaling about the benefits you’ve gotten from a negative situation—rather than focusing on the emotions you have surrounding the event or writing about something unrelated—can actually help you to forgive and move on more easily.”

Quit dwelling on the negatives.

Start thinking about the things you learned from this incident, trauma, or argument. "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies," Nelson Mandela once reportedly said. So, instead of drinking the poison, think about how this situation-however sad or difficult-has helped you grow as a person and discover both your resourcefulness and resilience. Also, start to remember the good memories you have of the person with whom you are angry. If it's a spouse, what drove you to marry him or her in the first place? When did you first fall in love?

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

At this point, you might have turned the object of your anger, even if it's your husband or wife, into a villain. You've set up this person as the enemy, and his or her actions are meant only to hurt you. In reality, this person might not even know what you're thinking. "You hold your ground by holding on to the pain you suffered at the hands of these enemies, by not forgiving them for what they have done," writes Sidney B. Simon and Suzanne Simon in Forgiveness: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Get on with Your Life (Grand Central Publishing, November 1991). "The ultimate irony is that in many cases, they aren't even aware of your misery, and while you are turning yourself inside out, they don't feel a thing." 

Choose forgiveness.

You have a choice about whether to open your heart to forgiveness or hang onto the resentment and hold a grudge. It's up to you. "Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge," according to the Mayo Clinic Web site. "The act that hurt or offended you may always remain apart of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other positive parts of your life." 

Live a happy life, which is the best revenge.

By not letting this event damage you and by creating success and happiness with the good things in your life that remain, you are more likely to forgive this person. In the case of a spouse, you might be able to move on happily together. But the power is in your hands as the forgiver. "Move away from your role as victim, and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life," according to the Mayo Clinic Web site. "As you let go of grudges, you'll no longer define your life by how you've been hurt."

Get professional help if necessary.

If you can't reach forgiveness or the event damaged you to such a degree that you don't know how to move on, you should seek the professional help of a therapist or counselor. If your husband or wife abuses you or continues to betray or lie to you, then you might have to end your marriage, and it will take longer for you to reach forgiveness. That's perfectly fine, write Sheri and Bob Stritof, the Guides to Marriage. But work toward forgiveness to relieve yourself of your own stress and heartache.


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Love Magazine: How to Reach Forgiveness
How to Reach Forgiveness
Love Magazine
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