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Mariage and Family

Steps Toward Forgivness

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05/01/2009 - In the past few articles we have been focusing on the concept of forgiving. We have attempted to define forgiveness, argue the necessity for forgiveness and now will discuss some steps to work towards forgiveness. I do want to emphasize the fact that forgiveness may come easily for some, but others may find themselves challenged to forgive and the following steps will take work.

The following phases are taken from Robert D. Enright who wrote the book Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step by Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. While all these phases are briefly discussed in this short article, I understand that this is not as easy as it sounds. I do hope that if this is a struggle for you, the following phases will aid you as you work towards this goal.

Phase 1: Uncovering your anger.

During this phase, a person will spend some time exploring his/her emotional response to a situation. He/she may feel a mixture of several different emotions at the same time such as anger, hurt, abandonment, betrayal and confusion. I often encourage people to write a letter to the offender, which may or may not be delivered, to offer a voice to these emotions. Speaking with someone who can empathize is also helpful. The goal is to validate your feelings and gain insight into the situation.

Phase 2: Decision to forgive.

This is the turning point which comes with the insight obtained in the first phase. This is where a person will make the conscious decision to seek healing. When finding healing hasn't worked before, a person can look at what has been done that hasn't worked and decide to seek new ways. This phase can be the most difficult to achieve as this requires overriding the natural tendency to seek vengeance that comes with the anger.

Phase 3: Working on forgiveness

Enright argues that in this phase it is necessary to empathize with the offender and try to gain some understanding into their world and past experiences. This is where a person will accept the pain and attempt to give compassion. One suggestion at this phase is to let the offender know that they are forgiven and, if possible, offer them a gift.

Phase 4: Discovery and release from the emotional prison.

As a person experiences events, hurts and circumstances, their life changes and can deepen. This is where one can learn from those experiences and hurts, allow those events to shape and strengthen their life and grow in maturity.*

I am a huge fan of writing. In each of these phases, journaling can be extremely helpful as you walk through these steps. Forgiveness can be one of the greatest tools in repairing a broken relationship and finding healing in a world of hurt.

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