Steps to Forgiveness
We’ve all seen the facebook memes, heard preachers and know from common sense that forgiveness is important but none of them come with instructions. How do you forgive. What are the steps you take to clear your mind of the anger and resentment you feel when you struggle to forgive. I will tell you the steps I take to achieve forgiveness.
First we need to understand why it’s important. Berkely did a study on the science of forgiveness. In 1978 Dr. Dabney Ewin was a surgeon specializing in burns. He used hypnosis on a patient to convince him that his leg, that was burned up to the knee, did not feel hot or painful but instead it felt cool and comfortable. A burn that normally would have required months and multiple surgeries, skin grafts and even possibly amputation was healed in just 18 days. He began to apply this to anger and forgiveness and learned that all patients that took their thoughts from anger to forgiveness showed significant improvements in their health and healing processes. “What you’re thinking and feeling affects your body.”
I personally know this to be true. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when I was in my mid 20s. Fibromyalgia is a widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. The actual cause is still unknown but it has been found to be triggered after physical or emotional trauma. When I went through trauma therapy and released my anger and resentments my fibromyalgia went away. I now only have recurrences when I’m not dealing with my resentments. I don’t know about the rest of you but I can catch a resentment quicker than a chill standing naked in the snow but now I know I can do the work and find relief for my physical pain with forgiveness.
The first step to achieving forgiveness is changing my focus from blaming others to understanding myself. I had years of childhood trauma that I had to deal with first. I thought for the longest time that if I forgave my parents, the years of pain and trauma I went through was invalidated. I had to take their part out of the equation and work on the damage I caused first. Years of survival mode had me causing trauma to myself. I then had to take responsibility for my part in things. I developed a drug and alcohol addiction, I was emotionally unavailable for any relationship including with my own kids. I was physically and emotionally abusive to myself. I refused to try therapy and I refused to try to be better. I needed to get out of my own way.
The second step to achieving forgiveness is to change my focus from being angry and resentful to being understanding. My parents tried to be better parents to me later in life but I wasn’t willing to accept it. I was so angry that anything nice they tried to do was taken negatively. I had to come to understand that they are just humans and they had their own trauma to deal with. They were doing the best they could with what they had. I also had to understand that they were trying to be better which is all anyone can do. We can’t change the past but we can strive to be better in the present.
The third step to achieving forgiveness is to be present. When those negative thoughts creep in about the past, get up and do something to bring yourself back to the present. This could be taking a walk and focusing on the beauty of your surroundings, getting a cup of coffee with a friend and inhaling the aroma and good conversation, calling a loved one and listening with intent to hear not respond or even something as simple as just stretching at your desk and refocusing on your task in front of you.
The final thing I have to do to achieve forgiveness is to give it freely. If my parents were to ask me today for forgiveness, I have already given it to them in my heart, but I would give it to them in person because I would want to be forgiven in return. Even the most popular Lord’s prayer says “Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Forgiveness is an action not a feeling. If you follow these action steps you too can achieve forgiveness.