It’s easy to re-play your version of painful stories of how you’ve been wronged. We do it about hurts caused by colleagues at work, our friends, family members, and even the people we profess to love intimately.
It’s a hard thing to do – to let go of something painful and forgive the person who may or may not realize they’ve deeply hurt you. But you must try. I know at your angriest point, you probably convinced yourself the person that caused you pain, did it with full intention to wound you and with intense cruelty in their heart. So you probably don't feel one shred of compassion towards them. But you may be completely wrong about their reasons.
Take a step back. Unless the person is a complete sociopath, they aren’t without feeling. If they hurt you, odds are they feel badly for cause you any pain. Remember everyone carries their own pain which influences the decisions they make. This doesn’t condone their thoughtless, insensitive, or selfish decisions, but it should them easier to understand. After all, none of us are perfect. Making mistakes is part of the human condition. And if someone has extended a sincere apology, think long a hard before you reject it.
Dr. Everett Worthington, a psychologist who has researched forgiveness for decades, has developed a five-step process called REACH:
R is for Recall. Recall the events and the hurt as accurately and objectively as you can. (State the facts, Ma'am just the facts.)
E is for Empathize. Try to understand what happened from the point of view of the person who wronged you. (NOTE: Don't try to empathize with sociopaths and murderers. let the courts deal with them and just honor the memories of your loved ones in positive ways.)
A is for the Altruistic gift of forgiveness. Recall a time that you hurt someone else and were forgiven. And offer this gift to the person who wronged you.
C is for Committing yourself to forgive publicly. Write a letter of forgiveness (whether you send it or not), write in a journal, tell a trusted friend, or, if you can, tell the person who wronged you.
H is for Holding onto forgiveness. Forgiving is not forgetting. Memories of the wrong and feelings will come up. Remind yourself that you have made a choice to forgive and don’t hold a grudge.
Betrayal, aggression, and just plain insensitivity: People can hurt us in a million ways, and forgiveness isn’t always easy. But bad behavior isn't always black and white, so how do you know when it's wise to take the path of forgiveness? Experts say one thing to weigh is intent.
What was the motive of the person who wronged you? Did he do it to hurt or embarrass you, or was he acting more out of weakness or carelessness? Take a pal who reveals a confidence. Did he blurt out your indiscretion because he had one too many sips of Egg Nog? Or did he do it intentionally to stir up some drama?
Another thing to consider: How important is the person in your life? Is the mistake heinous enough to scrap the relationship? If you believe the relationship is still important enough to salvage, please talk it out. End the year on a good note, if you can. Happy Holidays.
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