By Betty Hughes, Ph.D., LMHC
The purpose of this article is to introduce the complex issue of forgiveness so that the reader may do further research if so desired. Please keep in mind that many people may need the help of a professional in order to fully benefit from some of these suggestions. For example, talking about and releasing feelings of anger, rage, remorse, guilt, and shame can be overwhelming if explored alone.
So what is forgiveness? There are many definitions, but the following definition sums it up. According to Judith Orloff, MD, "Forgiveness is the act of compassionately releasing the desire to punish someone or yourself for an offense. It's a state of grace, nothing you can force or pretend. There are no short cuts." Go to: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201109/the-power-forgiveness-why-revenge-doesnt-work.
A more succinct definition comes from Oprah Winfrey quoting a guest on one of her shows: Forgiveness is ..."giving up the hope that the past could have been different." Go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/07/oprah-on-forgiveness-how-to-forgive_n_2821736.html
In this article, forgiveness refers to letting go, making space for positive feelings such as love, compassion, and peace. Who would not want to feel all that?
Yet, when I suggest to people that forgiveness can be healing, the usual response is that "they (the other person or persons) do not deserve to be forgiven." I also hear a similar response even when I suggest that people forgive themselves for whatever guilt they may feel.
It is a difficult concept to get across, but forgiveness may be a necessary component of finding true inner peace for oneself, whether the wrong-doer benefits or not. In fact, forgiveness benefits most the person who forgives.
It can be helpful to feel forgiven by others, but ultimately we have to forgive ourselves in order to feel at peace. Consider the negative impact of holding on to feelings of hurt, anger, betrayal, and resentment just to name a few. To be in the highest form of health, it is imperative that we learn to forgive.
Forgiveness is not: Condoning negative behavior; pretending that everything is fine; self-righteousness; changing your behavior in ways that do not serve you; and it does not require you to communicate with the other person (Casargian, Robyn (2010).
Once you have decided to forgive, there are many resources available to help in the process. An internet search of the word forgiveness will provide many other suggestions. The following resources will help you begin the process: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201109/the-power-forgiveness-why-revenge-doesnt-work
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgWUJ4pZaiM. Tapping into forgiveness with Brad Yates.
Bent, Robert Freeman (1990). Forgiving your parents. New York: Warner Books.
Bishop, Jacqui, M.S. & Grunte, Mary, R.N. (1993). How to forgive when you don't know how. Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press.
Casarjian, Robyn (2010). Forgiveness: A bold choice for a peaceful heart. New York: Bantam Books.
Flanigan, Beverly (1996). Forgiving yourself: A step-by-step guide to making peace with your mistakes and getting on with your life. New York: Macmillan.
Hart, D. L. (2012). What is the secret of forgiveness? How to forgive & move forward (e-book).
Simon, Sidney B. and Simon, Suzanne (1990). Forgiveness: How to make peace with your past and get on with your life. New York: Warner Books.
Vanzant, Iyanla (2013). Forgiveness: 21 days to forgive everyone for everything. Carlsbad, CA: Smiley Books.