William Fergus Martin makes it easier for us to understand that forgiveness is in our own interest by taking us through four steps leading towards it
“Forgive not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace,”
How often we have heard and read this phrase. Anybody working on personal growth knows that unless he comes out of the spiral of victimhood he would not be able to create a new life for himself. The more we stay locked in the prison of old and bitter memories the lesser is our chance to create a happy future for ourselves.
Its is necessary that we learn how to forgive our wrongdoers if we want to move away from past traumas. But many hurdles come in our way. We may be emotionally not ready to forgive. Or we might think that someday the feeling of forgiveness will automatically descend upon us.Or when we try to forgive, we may be going about it entirely the wrong way. We might be trying to push ourselves into forgiving someone by moralising to ourselves about it and telling ourselves that we ‘should’ forgive. If we do this, we will probably find that it does not work. Trying to force ourselves into forgiving someone is like trying to force ourselves into falling asleep. Just as we cannot fall asleep by sheer force of willpower, we cannot forgive by force of willpower either. How, then, can we forgive?
The right technique
Just like your phone is well capable of doing all sorts of things, if it has the right app, you are well capable of forgiving if you have the right technique. There is a new technique called The four steps to forgiveness, which people from all over the world have been finding extremely helpful in enabling them to learn to forgive. One of the things which makes The four steps to forgiveness so effective is that it is based on the principle that forgiveness is easy once we meet the healthy needs of the part of us which do not want to forgive. The part of us that wants to forgive is obviously not the problem; that part does not prevent us from forgiving. It is the part of us that does not want to forgive which holds us back. However, we cannot push, cajole, or bully that part of us into wanting to forgive. We need to find healthy ways to relate to the unforgiving part of us so that we can forgive.
Notice that we are looking to meet the healthy needs of the part of us that does not want to forgive. Wanting revenge is not a healthy need and being willing to forgive someone after taking vengeance on them would be missing the point! What The four steps to forgiveness does is to help us see the practical benefits we will get from forgiving that situation. Focussing our attention on those practical benefits enables us to gradually let go of our resistance to forgiving and does so in a graceful way so that we can forgive easily and naturally. It also helps restore our self-respect and self-esteem so that we can release the pain we were feeling around the situation.
Forming the necessary bridge
The Four Steps to Forgiveness creates a process that allows the idealistic part of us, which wants to forgive because it is morally the ‘right’ thing to do, to have a constructive relationship with the more basic ‘gut instinct’ part of us which tends to resist forgiving until it is convinced that doing it is in our best interest. The part of us that resists forgiving is not ‘bad’. It is trying to protect us and just needs some gentle encouragement before it will happily co-operate.
It helps to realise that when we forgive, we are ‘letting go of wanting to punish.’ It is the desire to hurt another, no matter how justified, which causes us the most pain and sits like a heavy weight inside us. Letting go of the desire to hurt brings us freedom, lightness, and peace. What we choose to do about our relationship with the person we are learning to forgive will depend on the clarity that comes to us after we have forgiven them. Forgiveness gives us the freedom to stay and the freedom to walk away.
Let us walk through the steps to forgiveness, so you can see for yourself. In the beginning, it is better to do this in writing.
The Four steps to forgiveness
1. Who and What
Step 1 is to think about a person you need to forgive and why you need to forgive them and write down a sentence like the one below:
I want to forgive ____________ [name] for ______________[what you want to forgive them for].
I want to forgive Janet for stealing my boyfriend.
I want to forgive John for hitting me when I was a child.
I want to forgive my father for not loving me enough.
2. Current feelings
Here, in Step 2, you write a list of your current unhappy feelings about the situation. It is important to be really honest and write down real, raw feelings—not ‘nice’ or politically correct feelings (write ‘absolutely furious’ if that is how you feel rather than ‘I feel a little bit annoyed’). Typical feelings might be hate, anger, fury, rage, shame, resentment, bitterness, vengeance, horror, shock, pain, numbness, and so on.
Make a list of benefits you can obtain from forgiving this situation. Imagine you have forgiven them completely and it is as if the situation never happened. How will you feel? How will your attitude and behaviour be? Happier and more positive when you have let go of the pain from what happened? The benefits can often be the opposite of your current feelings (‘ange’' becomes 'peace' and so on). State positive feelings rather than a lack of negative feelings (‘happier’ rather than ‘less fearful’). Sometimes the benefits can be very practical such as being able to get a better job from forgiving a work-related situation; or being able to create a more fulfilling relationship from forgiving an issue with your life partner.
Write the benefits you would like from forgiving this situation, e.g., peace of mind, freedom, happiness, feeling lighter, happier relationship with my spouse, etc.)
Now create a sentence to affirm and confirm your intention to forgive. First, pick a few of the benefits from Step 3 which feel the most important to you in this moment. Then create a sentence using those benefits.
I forgive _________________[name] and I accept ___________[benefits] which forgiveness brings.
Say, for example, you are working on forgiving someone called John and from Step 3 you picked the benefits of ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’. You would write:
I forgive John and I accept the peace and freedom which forgiveness brings.
Slowly, say this sentence inwardly, in your mind, at least three times and notice if you begin to feel any different.
Now return to Step 1 and go through The four steps a few times, for the same topic, and see how your feelings change. You may find that the desire to forgive has gotten stronger in Step 1 or that your feelings have become stronger in Step 2 or Step 3. At some point you will feel better and, eventually, you will feel that your work on this situation is complete. As you practise forgiveness, it gets easier until it becomes automatic. You will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to forgive—once you know how.
Are you now ready to take that landmark step in your journey of life?
William Fergus Martin (williamfergusmartin.com) is an author, presenter. and workshop leader. His book, Forgiveness is Power, is published in India by Vikas Publishing. He is also the founder of the Global Forgiveness Initiative which offers a free e-book, Four Steps to Forgiveness, in over 20 languages: iwp.net/4s
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