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None of us is perfect!!…..We often say and do things that offend loved ones. I am as guilty as the next person!! 🙂

All of us have done or said things that are hurtful to others at one time or another, and we may not even realize it. Forgiveness is an important part of strong, healthy relationships. I recently came across an article on forgiveness while I was struggling with my own inability to forgive. I have since tried to apply it to my life and feel it is important enough to share with others.

Forgiveness allows us to get over our anger and feelings of resentment or strong desires to hurt someone back who has hurt us either through words or actions aimed directly towards us or towards people we care deeply about. Forgiving involves changing your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in how you view the one who has caused you the hurt. Bad feelings and judgment towards this person are reduced, not because they don’t “deserve” that treatment, but because we are willing to view the person with some compassion, and love. Sometimes it takes us a very long time to get to this point, because we want to strike out and hurt the people who have hurt us, we want to make them feel as bad as they made us feel. When families and friends can’t find a way to forgive, relationships suffer. Healing is impossible because the offended person becomes obsessed with being wronged and looking for ways to strike back at the one who offended. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in how someone has hurt them that they make the following  statements a way of life:  “I will now hurt you for all the hurt you caused me.” , or “I will never forgive you for, or forget the things you said or did to me.”  This becomes a very unhealthy way of life. Unforgiving responses of blame, anger, and hostility have actually been linked to poor health, particularly coronary heart disease and even premature death. Most people who have forgiven others will tell you how much better they feel as the emotional burden they were carrying was let go.

Numerous family situations present the need and opportunity for forgiveness. The following  is an exercise I came across very recently and have decided to apply to my own life.

First, reflect on areas where you may harbor resentment, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness in your relationship with family, friends, work associates, or others. Do you hold grudges? Write these down. How old are these feelings? Do you bring up past events in arguments? Are there patterns of behavior that continue to offend you? Are you willing to push yourself to forgive?

  • I have done this part of the exercise and decided that for my own sake I need to forgive the “individuals” who have hurt or offended me or my family even though their actions continue. I have held grudges for a long time because of hurtful things said and done to me by others but have now come to realize that this is not a healthy way for me to respond.  Some of my bitterness towards others goes back a long time, and yes, I do bring up the past in arguments because I haven’t been able to let go of it before now, because the hurt was too deep. Sharing this  with others is a way of allowing myself to heal from hurts caused by other peoples words and actions and to be able to stop retaliating… difficult as that is for me.

Second, reflect on situations where you may have hurt a family member or a friend. Have you taken responsibility? Did you apologize? Have you taken steps to change recurrent patterns that offend? You may be standing in the way of reconciliation if you’ve never taken responsibility for your part of the problem.

  • Being the type of person I am I have had trouble admitting that I also played a part in disagreements with family members. I have felt very hurt and offended by comments that were made to me and because I also held on to comments and situations from the past, what someone might think was a little thing became a huge thing in my mind and became too much for me to just brush off so I retaliated by being hurtful back. I have recently come to the conclusion that sometimes people speak without thinking how it may affect another person and don’t even realize that the words that come out of their mouths actually hurt and offend and when this happens I need to take a deep breath and remember that hurtful comments are generally made by people who have their own issues to work through and are more of a cry for help than an intended offense. I must treat these people with kindness and hope they can come to terms with their own unhappiness or bitterness that causes them to behave the way they do towards me and others.

As difficult as it will be for me this is my new attitude towards people…..all people, family and friends included.

Here are some steps to make forgiveness happen:

  •  Set aside time to discuss the issue one on one. Make sure it’s a good time to talk.
  •  Identify the problem or harmful event. You must both agree that you’re ready to discuss the issue.
  •  Fully explore the pain and concerns related to this issue for both of you. Talk openly about what has happened that harmed one or both of you. Don’t try this unless each of you is motivated to listen and show respect for each other’s viewpoints.
  • The offender asks for forgiveness. A sincere apology is a powerful addition to a request for forgiveness. “I’m sorry. I was wrong–please forgive me” is one of the most healing things that can be said between two people.
  • The offended agrees to forgive.
  • The offender commits to refrain from doing the thing that caused the offense.

Expect forgiveness to take time. A relationship has the best chance to heal when each party takes responsibility to make things good again in the relationship. It starts with one person taking the high ground and making a sincere attempt to not cause any more strife between the parties.

What if the other party has wronged you and won’t take responsibility, won’t apologize?

“You can still move ahead and forgive. It may be hard, but if you don’t, you and the relationship will suffer added damage. You put yourself at risk for psychological and physical problems such as depression, ulcers, high blood pressure and rage. That’s no way to live.” I believe that in order to truly move on you must forgive even if the other person never has any intention of forgiving you, or believes they have done nothing wrong and therefore have nothing to be sorry about. I have realized that I cannot control someone else’s behaviour or thoughts, only my own.

Seeking forgiveness from others:

  • Engage in self-confrontation – regularly examine your actions and motives. Ask “Is it I?” – be the first to confess and apologize, and, if appropriate, reconcile and restore your relationship.
  • Self-disclose – share your feelings and story with family members or loved ones.
  • Avoid confessions in which you blame or fail to accept responsibility (such as saying, “I’m sorry, but if you wouldn’t have said that . . . .). Search for solutions instead of blame, even though blame is so easy to do.

Forgiving others:

  • Live your own forgiven-ness – we all have experiences where others have forgiven us.
  • Remember that every person’s sense of worth is important – realize that by forgiving them you aid in their personal experience of forgiveness.
  • Seek with all your heart and mind for anger to be lifted. This may often include prayer, or some other activity to rid yourself from anger.
  • Develop empathy and emotional understanding for the situation of your offender. Try to understand what problems they may have been going through when the dispute took place.
  • Avoid unnecessary retelling of the offense – dwelling on such reinforces an unforgiving heart as well as solidifying the event in your mind.
  • Remember that forgiving rarely entails memory loss but freedom from preoccupation with the offense – do not let your thoughts, emotions, and reactions be consumed by the offense.

Forgiving one another from our hearts helps restore the peace and contentment that should be a part of every family or friendship. But forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. By forgiving another, regardless of their actions, you do yourself a great service. You let go of bitterness, contempt, vindictiveness, and desires for revenge that drain you of mental and emotional energy you could use in other areas of your life. It is important to let these things go because if you don’t, the other person – even if you never see them again – continues to hold power over your emotions and your thoughts – and you.

This has become very important to me… be able to forgive…..for my health and healthy relationships with others. I have realized that I cannot possibly be completely there for the people who mean the most to me when I am being consumed by the hurt caused to me by others. 🙂

This is how I am able to look myself in the mirror every day and see a better person than I once was, because I am able to move past the hurt caused by what others say and do by forgiving them and letting it go. 🙂

So for everyone who has been hurt in some way by a family member or a friend, do YOURSELF a favour and forgive them even if they are never able to admit to themselves or to you that they have done something wrong….in the end you have to live with yourself and that’s much easier to do knowing you no longer harbour any ill feelings towards another.

I hope after reading this everyone will understand how important it is to forgive those that have said or done hurtful things to them no matter how big or small and try to find some contentment in life through forgiveness!! 🙂

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