What does forgiveness mean to you?

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What does forgiveness mean to you?When trust is broken, it can feel like something inside the compass of what is right or wrong is damaged. Consequently, you immediately start looking for a way to fix the situation, to obtain justice. You start to idealize the desired result; you hypothesize, and explore the probability of achieving that desired result. Finally, you decide to act and do something to restore the emotional balance, by choosing to rewrite your story from victim into a story of personal growth.

“Sit comfortably with a pen and paper. Let the muscles of your back relax with each breath you take. Stay focused on your breath for a while.” (Mountain Dreamer)

Let’s identify how we act when we are hurt and in pain:

1. When someone hurts me:

  • I stop speaking with that person until they recognize the hurt they caused and apologize.
  • I feel sad and choose to ignore what has happened.
  • Focusing on the behaviour, and not the person, I immediately confront the person who has caused pain.

2. If someone hurts me and refuses to apologize:

  • I get angry and avoid contact with the person.
  • I am afraid to confront the person, so I try to forget the event.
  • I confront the person and say, “I feel angry when…”

3. When I remember the event and the pain I felt at the time:

  • I remind the person of the pain felt.
  • I try to forget.
  • I get angry and try to forget, by thinking about other things.

4. When I am the one who has caused pain:

  • I try to explain my actions.
  • I feel sorry, but do not say anything.
  • I apologize for the pain I caused.

5. When someone confronts me with something I have done wrong:

  • I try to defend myself and blame someone else.
  • I do not say anything.
  • I assume responsibility for what I did and apologize.

“Write it down, your feelings and thoughts, with the truth you know in this moment, without judgment, and without rushing to end the process.” (Mountain Dreamer)

When you are ready, pick up your pen and paper and complete the following sentences:

  1. When I feel angry, I ….
  2. When I feel frustrated, I ….
  3. When I feel hurt, I ….
  4. When I feel sad, I ….
  5. When I feel scared, I ….
  6. When I feel I am not enough, I ….
  7. How would my story be different if I chose not to be right as a prerequisite to forgiveness?
  8. How would my story be different if I chose to forgive?
  9. How would my story be different if I chose to ask for forgiveness?
  10. Forgiveness means….
  11. Asking for forgiveness means….

Reviewing your answers, what conclusion have you reached? Do you react with anger? Do you try to justify past actions? Do you avoid conflicts or seek to write a new story?

If you need extra support, you can always call us at 1-866-833-7690 or visit Workhealthlife.com to connect to one of our counsellors online.

Written by Rosana Brasil, LMFT Full-time counsellor in Scarborough

References:

Evan Morris, “Forgive,” The Word Detective, December 5, 2007, http://www.word-detective.com/2007/12/05/forgive/.

Lispector, Clarice. Selected Cronicas. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1996.

Luskin, Frederic. Forgive for Good: a Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness. New York: Harper Collins Publishing, 2002.

Mehl-Madrona, Lewis. Healing the Mind through the Power of Story: the Promise of Narrative Psychiatry. Rochester: Bear & Company, 2010.

Mountain Dreamer, Oriah. The Dance: Moving to the Rhythms of Your True Self. Toronto: Harper Collins Publishing, 2001. http://www.scribd.com/doc/38600546/006111670X

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