I recently read a great article that tied together some of the things we’ve discussed here. Earlier this week, I wrote about forgiveness and it was well received. But it lacked a concrete ‘How to’ summary. Today is about how to take action and practice forgiveness – instead of just reading (or thinking) about it. Again, the same principles apply to forgiving ourselves. I think this can be the most difficult of all: Perhaps because the dialog is mostly internal and we can all be our own worst enemy. So, how do we begin to make all those nice theories, blogs and memes a reality? Here are some ideas.
First, we need to make the decision to forgive. It is a choice and it’s available to anybody. You may think, “But I’m not ready.” That might be true. But read this anyway and become familiar with the process. It’s not something we’ll achieve overnight. Plant the seeds of forgiveness now.
Acknowledge that you might be afraid of what comes next. Sometimes, we allow the hurt to define us or, at least, it becomes a part of who we are. If we’re not that victim, then who are we? What excuse will we have for not moving on and risk it happening again? What will we talk about? How will we feel, of there’s no self-pity? Are you using the hurt to stay where you feel safe because you fear you’ll be hurt again? If so, that fear is holding you back from experiencing great things.
Stop telling the story. If we talk about it or think about it, we give it power. You cannot move forward if you are living in the past. Ban it from your conversations – including the internal ones. When you find yourself going there, change the subject or think about something else, like how lucky you are for some completely unrelated reason. First, you may need to get it all out one last time. You can do this by processing it with a trusted friend or partner. Or, you can journal about it. Put it all on paper, for your eyes only. Then vow not to dwell on it again. Ever.
Accept that you are human and that you’ve made a mistake – particularly if you are trying to forgive yourself for something. Chances are pretty good that you’ve learned a lesson from the experience and that’s a GOOD thing! Everybody makes mistakes – why should you be any different? Rather than be surprised or angry to find that you’re not perfect, embrace the freedom of not having to know everything. Learn from it. Grow. (It’s also called L I F E).
Find a positive outlet for the energy that comes with anger. If you’re still feeling upset, don’t reach for the wine or the pint of ice cream. Talk a fast walk. Rake leaves. Pull weeds. Clean a closet. You’ll feel better and you’ll also have accomplished something!
Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously. Practice random acts of kindness. Doing things for others gets us outside of ourselves, to focus on the external. It will also make you feel better about yourself. In other words: Get over it!
Remember – Forgiveness does not negate the act, nor does it absolve the offender of their behavior. They still own that. Forgiveness is what we do to free ourselves of the transgression so that it no longer has power over us. Don’t you deserve that?