Author: Carolyn Rennie, Foothills Centre for Change
A lot of us come into recovery from addiction to drug and alcohol with a pile, or rather heaps of resentments. People who have caused us so much harm we don’t believe we could ever let it go or move past the situation. Resentments trap us in a cycle of self-harm, and we need to learn to let them go. The word forgive comes from the Aramaic word which means “to untie”. Forgiveness can help untie the hold resentments have over us. Forgiveness is defined as: to excuse a fault or offense or to stop feeling anger or resentment against. Study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and to let go of past hurts. A quote from Ann Landers states “Hate is like an acid; it destroys the vessel in which it is stored.” In order to be free of hate, resentment, and anger towards others, we need to learn to forgive.
What Does it Mean to Forgive?
Forgiveness involves recognizing the person who harmed us is more than just the person who harmed us. They are a full-fledged human being whose full dimension isn’t defined by the foolish decision to harm us in some way. To forgive we need to acknowledge such a person still has the capacity for good. Forgiving requires us to let go; of our anger; of our desire to punish or teach a lesson; of our need to harm our harmer; of the notion that by choosing to forgive an offense we’re somehow condoning the action; of our need for an apology and of the need for our harmer to change. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean returning the person we’ve forgiven to their former status in our lives. Forgiving means we move on healed from the hurt that’s been done to us.
Why is Forgiveness so Hard?
- We’re often reluctant to let go of our anger
- We want to satisfy our sense of justice
- Forgiveness may feel like letting our offender off the hook without punishment
- We wish to harm as we’ve been harmed
- They haven’t apologized
- When someone commits an injustice, we often cease to see or believe they could be capable of any good
What are the Benefits of Forgiveness?
Forgiveness provides us a way to break the cycle of violence. Forgiving with help us manifest a life-condition of compassion and joy. Additionally, forgiveness helps us let go of anger. Anger can leak out against others who’ve committed no harm against us. Anger can ruin our ability to feel joy in all areas of lives. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.
Here are Some Steps Toward Forgiveness:
- Acknowledge your own inner pain
- Express your emotions in non-hurtful ways without yelling or attacking
- Protect yourself from further victimization
- Try to understand the point of view and motivations of the person being forgiven
- Forgive yourself for your role in the situation
- Decide whether to remain in the situation in which you have been harmed
- Perform the overt act of forgiveness verbally or in writing
In forgiving others, we are ultimately seeking to free ourselves!