By: Chris Anderson Psy.D

Most people have been hurt or wronged by others in their lives. Developing from these transgressions are feelings of anger and resentment. Although a normal byproduct of events, these dark and negative feelings can haunt and plague people for years. Eventually people realize they need to figure out how to let go of these resentments in order to live a happier life. Forgiveness is the conscious decision to release feelings of resentment toward an offending person or group. Most realize that harboring and carrying anger, hatred, and vengeful feelings can consume them and it changes their global outlook on life and interactions with others. Realizing the negative impact resentment is having on you may be easy in comparison to figuring out how to actually let go and forgive, which is a much more difficult task.

What are the Steps to Forgiveness?

Psychologist Robert Enright created a model that lays out four steps to forgiveness. He suggests the first step is to explore your anger and evaluate whether you have been processing the emotions or avoiding the anger. He suggests the second step is to try to make a conscious decision to forgive. He says believing forgiveness may be a path forward out of resentment is important. The third step to achieving forgiveness according to the model is attempting to find compassion for the offender and trying to understand the issues in their life that may have drove their behavior. Enright says the last step is to release the negative emotions and determine how you may have grown from the experience.

Acceptance as a Precursor to Forgiveness

Many people struggle to get to a place or forgiveness let alone trying to find empathy for their offender. The hurt and pain they endured simply feels unforgiveable. For many a first step toward forgiveness may simply be acceptance. At first many people struggle with even the idea of acceptance. A lot of people have connotations in their mind about acceptance being tied to ideas that the transgression is some how condoned, tolerable, or that they are on board with what happened. A slightly different lens to start seeing things through is that what we first need to accept is reality. What happened, happened. It cannot be undone and although unjust, it is now your responsibility to work through it. You don’t have to condone what happened to accept it. This first step can be healing, cathartic, and helps people get unstuck and start moving forward to work through feelings and changing the way they conceptualize and how they define themselves based on what happened. As people process through, acceptance often sets the stages for later forgiveness.

How Do I Forgive Myself?

When you were the perpetrator of wrong doings and come to see the impact your action had on others, many people are racked by guilt and shame. There are three ways to deal with guilt: change the behavior, make amends or restitution, and forgive yourself, which is the conscious decision to let go. This hopefully spurs a better understanding of what led you to act as you did and clears the path for changing behaviors. It is important to reflect on how you came to act as you did. Rather than justifying or rationalizing your behavior, work to accept responsibility for what you’ve done. At this point it is imperative to try not to let this evolve into guilt and shame, but rather try to find compassion for yourself and channel this into a chance to grow and change. Next, try to make amends or restitution whenever possible. Most important is changing behaviors and aspiring to be the person you desire to be. Finding a way to grow and forgiving yourself is challenging but can be achieved.

If you are struggling with resentments and how to forgive, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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