How to Forgive: 7 Steps to Emotional Freedom
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Have you noticed that life goes in cycles? For a while, everything is wonderful! Then something happens, or someone says something, and it feels like the world just crashed. It’s difficult to regain your equilibrium.
Our tendency is to blame ‘them’ for the problem. As we overdose on self-pity, we forget that we have the ability, indeed the God-ordained right and power, to rule our emotions. That includes unforgiveness, anger, sadness, grief and other negative feelings.
God wants you to have stability and peace. That is why your spirit is supposed to be stronger than your emotions, so you can govern your actions and reactions. When you find yourself in that downward spiral of anger, hurt and a desire for retaliation, it’s important to ‘stop the madness’. Here are seven steps to help you forgive.
- Remind yourself that the other person is probably unaware that you hurt. Mercy is easier when you see the other person as innocent of intentional wrong-doing. Stuff happens. You know how you feel when something you say or do – with the intent to help – is resented or misunderstood. Extend that empathy to the one who hurt you.
- Realize that forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. Choose with intent to forgive and move forward. Reinforce your decision as many times as it takes. Like dieting, you will have to say NO to yourself. No to your emotions, no to negative thoughts, no to vengeance. Don’t dine on self-pity. Avoid those negative thoughts like calories.
- Hush! You cannot find emotional distance if you continually tell anyone who will listen what ‘they did to you’. Stop talking about it. To others and to yourself. Resist the temptation to tell it ‘just one more time’. Every time you speak about it, you tear the scab off the wound instead of allowing it to heal.
- Look for the lesson. In every negative situation is the seed for something positive. What did you learn? How did you grow? What life lesson can you take away? If you can’t seem to find anything positive, look again. Keep looking (sometimes time and distance help) until you can see the situation from a positive viewpoint.
- Forgive yourself, also. Sure, you probably spent some time rehashing the situation, creating different scenarios in your mind, thinking of all the things you could have said. Admit it and move forward. It’s OK to recognize your feelings as human, just don’t camp there. After all, it took the Israelites 40 years to make an 11-day journey… all because they stayed captured by their feelings.
- Make a gesture of forgiveness to reinforce your decision with action. Send a card or small gift. Meet for coffee or lunch. Do something to bless the perpetrator. Do it without expectation of reward or acknowledgement. Do it to BE a blessing!
- Practice gratitude. How long did you spend in the doldrums of anger and hurt? Spend at least as much time thinking about all the good things in your life. It will change your focus and put the incident in perspective. Ask yourself, “Will it still matter next Tuesday?”
Unforgiveness is a crutch. It makes you a victim instead of a victor. And I’m sure you don’t want to be on crutches all your life! Take back the control. Do not let another person rule your thoughts and emotions. By allowing yourself to focus on the wrongs, you lose sight of the goodness around you, the possibilities of blessing and joy.
Remember, forgiveness is a DECISION, not a feeling. It takes strength of spirit, mind and purpose to walk in love. You may have to remind yourself several times a day (as your mind tries to circle back to the hurts) that you forgave that person.
Stay with it. It gets easier with practice! You will eventually find yourself ‘rooted and grounded in Love’ instead of anger, hurt or bitterness. Practicing forgiveness is critical to your emotional freedom and stability. It is the key to peace, joy and contentment.
For more information on developing life skills, better relationships, and becoming the best YOU possible, visit http://www.seebecksolutions.com and sign up to receive your FREE subscription to “What Matters Most”, a weekly ezine of inspiration, motivation and humor from a Christian perspective.
Ruth Seebeck has built a reputation over the last three decades as a life-skills coach, mentor, Christian counselor and friend. She is a business owner, author, community volunteer and event coordinator whose passion is helping others overcome life’s challenges.
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