Written by: Colleen Zietlow, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with Agnesian HealthCare Behavioral Health Services
Many of the patients I work with struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Somewhere along the line forgiveness has become synonymous with giving in to somebody that has wronged us.
This is not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is letting go of the anger and hurt that is holding onto us and keeping us stuck. Forgiveness is a tricky endeavor. It is probable that when you decide to forgive someone you may not immediately feel like you’ve forgiven them. That is because feelings are not reliable. They fluctuate rapidly and are influenced by so many things that we cannot count on them to be accurate. Feelings often follow action. The action here is the decision to forgive.
Action steps to forgiveness:
- Really figure out what you need to forgive and who you need to forgive; be as specific as you possibly can.
- Decide to stop torturing yourself by continually reliving the wrong-doing that has occurred. This means that you will not think about nor talk about the wrong doing (except with a therapist or pastor when it is for the purpose of you healing and spiritual health and well-being).
- Remind yourself of the decision you made to forgive every time that the wrong doing creeps back into your awareness and distract yourself from the thoughts of the wrong doings.
Forgiveness is an ongoing process. It will take time for your feelings to catch up with your decision to forgive but it will happen if you are willing to do the above steps.