The saying goes to “forgive and forget”, but forgiveness can prove to be a major internal struggle for most people. So National Forgiveness Day is here to remind us about the power this practice can have on ourselves and others. The day’s aim is to help us show unconditional love and harbor no ill will towards those who have done you wrong.
Lewis B. Smedes said it best with “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
In the spirit of National Forgiveness Day, we have put together a list of seven steps to help you forgive someone.
- Identify what happened to you and understand your feelings. It is important to write down or think about the situation. Who did it involve? What made you upset? Without a clear understanding of your emotions, it will be hard for you to address how to move on.
- Do not seek revenge. Sometimes when we get angry with someone and we do not want to forgive them, we become filled with bitterness and tend to treat the other person as less than human. It is important to remember that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. In addition, revenge is never really healthy and will just continue a cycle of hate.
- Don’t force forgiveness. If you are not ready to forgive, take a step back and dig deep down to discover why you are not ready to forgive. It is important to be at peace with your decision to forgive.
- Accept responsibility for your role. Conversations go two ways; maybe you also made the other person upset or played a part in the controversy. It is important to not just blame the offending party for everything and instead, accept your responsibility in the matter as well.
- Write a brutally honest letter to explain to someone why you are mad and hurt. My advice is to then tear it up and let this be your release before talking to the person who upset you. It’s a great way to gather your thoughts and know exactly what they want to say to the other person (and what you don’t want to say).
- Decide whether to talk to them, write to them, or if neither is appropriate. Communication is optional. In some circumstances it’s just not appropriate to continue on in the relationship in the same capacity. If you feel unsafe around this person, it is ok to simply forgive them on your own and let go of the resentment and bitterness the scenario caused you. This may be a repeated process internally in order to truly let go, depending on the severity of the situation.
- Extend the Olive Branch. If you feel able and ready to have a communicate with the person, when you are ready, plan a time that is best for both of you to talk. Meeting in public can be helpful to ensure that both parties are on their best behavior. Alternatively, send written communication if that’s what you are more comfortable with (just remember, it is always easier to misinterpret a letter, email, or text message). A few peacemaking tips:
- It is important when speaking to the other person, and seeking forgiving, that you do not get wrapped up in the past and just criticize them.
- Pay attention to your language, stay away from words like “always” and “never”.
- When sharing how they have hurt or offended you, it is important not to talk about them as a person, but the action that they took.
Extending the olive branch is a phrase use to symbolize meeting the other person in the middle. Olive branches represented peace in Ancient Greece. Remember this step is the hardest, but when it’s possible, reconciliation can be the gift that frees you and other person from inner conflict.
We hope you find these steps helpful and are able to embrace National Forgiveness Day. We know forgiveness is never easy, but living in hate and anger is not fun either. Embrace the future and the good in others, the future is yours to create.