What are the steps to true forgiveness?
Yesterday, we talked about how forgiveness is actually a process, not a singular action. Of course, that begs the question, “What is the process of forgiveness?”
There are myriad approaches to understanding this process, and making sense of it is unique to your situation and context.
Still, consider these steps to true forgiveness a rubric for embarking on a passage to meaningful forgiveness that will help you find resolution.
Step 1: Acknowledge
Acknowledge the hurt. Who hurt you and why did they do it? What is the context of the situation, and how long ago did this happen?
Step 2: Consider
Consider how the hurt and pain has affected you. The word “consider” is key here because it involves thinking before making a decision. Before you decide on whether or not you will forgive this person, consider the negative feelings you’ve acquired since the incident.
How has the pain changed you? How detrimental was the person’s mistake to your life or someone else?
Step 3: Accept
Accept that you cannot change the past. No matter how much you wish this pain could be reversed, it’s time to admit to yourself that your anger toward the person won’t redeem what they have done. It is during this step that you must thoughtfully consider whether or not you want to forgive.
Step 4: Determine
Determine whether or not you will forgive. This is when the forgiveness process will either begin or end. This decision should not be made lightly, as it will determine the future of your relationship with this person.
Step 5: Repair
Repair the relationship with the person who wronged you. Before any an act of forgiveness or reconciliation, rebuild the connection you used to have with this person.
In most cases, you will be the instigator of this repairing, but if you have thoughtfully engaged in the previous 4 steps, then there is a higher chance of success.
Note that you are repairing the relationship, not restoring it. It will likely take more time for the relationship to return to normal, whatever that may look like to you. Acts of repairing can include kind words, simple gestures or even gifts.
Step 6: Learn
Learn what forgiveness means to you. Up until now, you’ve probably thought that forgiveness is more for their benefit, not yours.
But once the relationship is on the path to restoration, and you’ve given yourself time to accept the reality of the past, it’s clear that forgiveness is a way for you to find closure. Closure that means something.
Step 7: Forgive
Forgive the person who wronged you. In some cases, this will be silent.
You may be compelled to verbally forgive the person, even if you do not expect a kind response, but if you have followed through on the previous steps, then their reaction won’t really matter. What will matter is that you have found a way to let go and move on.