When we are hurt by other people, intentionally or otherwise, a relationship barrier is automatically established. We get angry and start to retaliate. If no forgiveness takes place at this stage then bitterness and resentment sets in which can have very serious physical, emotional and spiritual consequenses(See section on Emotional cup)as well as having enormous relationship consequences. However forgiveness is not easy. If you have been badly hurt forgiveness can seem impossible. Yet we have to forgive,for our OWN SAKE. We often think that forgiving lets the offender off the hook, but actually the process let US off the hook! It has little to do with the person who has hurt you unless you both want reconciliation. We probably have all experienced resentment and bitterness, it is not nice and we know it affects us adversely. So WE HAVE TO FORGIVE FOR OUR SAKE ! The real question is HOW DO YOU FORGIVE? Of course it is easier said then done.
It is definitely easier to forgive if we have received a proper apology, but dont forget in most cases this will not be forthcoming either because the person has no idea they have hurt you in the first place, or they will not apologise, or they can not apologise because, for example, they are dead.
Remember forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is primarily for yourself, to get rid of the anger and bitterness that is having a negative affect on you. It restores peace to you. It also removes the relationship barrier between you and the other person. Reconciliation involves a process of apology and forgiveness from both parties and the desire to restore and develop the relationship.
Reconciliation may not be right in certain circumstances where for example there is an abusive relationship. However if the abused is to live a fulfilled life and a peaceful life then he/she must forgive the abuser to get rid of the anger and bitterness in his/her own life. How the abuser feels is not their issue.
Remember you can never undo the hurt but you can choose to put it to one side. You choose also to live with the consequences of the hurt. You choose the inner peace that comes from forgiveness rather than live with bitterness and resentment that develops through not forgiving.
HOW DO YOU FORGIVE ?
Research shows that there are five key steps you must go through in order to forgive. All require conscious choices - none are automatic. With minor hurts you can simply choose to forgive and that is usually straight forward. However where you have been hurt badly you will need to going through the five key steps one by one.
Recall the hurt. So often we tend to pretend we are not hurt, or push it under the carpet. We have been hurt , we need to face up to it and it helps to write down:
Who hurt you?
How were you hurt?
How do you feel about it?
If you start to feel angry as you do this -good!
Empathize. Try to see the situation from the other person's point of view (however hard this may be!) Imagine you were in their shoes. Again it helps to write it down.
Why did they do what they did?
What were the circumstances?
How do you think they felt when they did what they did?
Empathy goes a long way to replace the negative emotions of unforgiveness such as bitterness, hatred and anger.
Remember that you have been forgiven in the past for times when you have hurt other people. Write down some examples when you know you have hurt people and have been forgiven.
Do you remember your sense of Guilt?
How did you feel when you were forgiven?
Why not now give a selfless gift of forgiveness to the person who hurt you?
Confirm your forgiveness.
Tell someone(friend/partner/colleague) you have forgiven the offender. Write it down stating you have forgiven the person - record the date. Keep it so you can refer to it later when doubts arise.
Only tell the offender that you have forgiven him/her if they specifically ask to be forgiven.
Hold on to the forgiveness.
The memory of the hurt will often re occur, possibly over many years. When that happens you need to remind yourself that you did forgive the person on such and such a date - you wrote it down - re read it if necessary. If you dont you can find yourself back into the cycle of bitterness and resentment of unforgiveness which is so destructive and to escape you will have to go through the whole forgiveness cycle again.
Think of an example where you are still hurting from what someone did to you. Now go through the five stages of forgiveness. Then continue to other hurts you have experienced in your life. Start with small hurts and works up to forgiving big hurts!