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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Dare to Forgive

Forgiveness is a word we all think we can define until we actually try to do it.  If you poll a group of ten people, you will get ten different definitions.   My own definition of forgiveness draws upon the Greek root from which the word derives.  Originally to forgive meant “to set free.”  As I define it, when you forgive someone else you set yourself free of the hold that anger and resentment exert over you.  It does not mean, by my definition, that you set free the criminal, or that you allow the batterer back into your life, or that you love or even like the person who hurt you.  It simply means that you do all that you can to let go of the anger and resentment that have built up inside of you, thereby setting yourself free.  In this sense, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.

Of course, aA person cannot snap his or her fingers and forgive then and there.  Forgiveness is a process, not a moment.  The deeper the hurt, the longer the process can take.  But, if you commit yourself to a path to forgiveness you will be much better off than if you commit yourself to a path to revenge.  Even if you never get there, you will be better off on the path to forgiveness than on the path to revenge.

Forgiveness can be mysterious.  It can come when we least expect it, or we can search for years but never find it.  Each individual must find his or her won way to forgiveness, but I offer the following four steps to suggest a way:

  • First of all, feel the pain.  You must acknowledge how you have been hurt.
  • Second, talk to selected people you trust and relive and reflect upon what happened.  You need to talk it out to help put it into perspective.
  • Third, ask yourself the question, “What do I want this pain to turn into?”  If your answer is something like peace or growth or wisdom, you are on your way.  Now start trying to spit the hook of anger and resentment that is stuck inside you.  This can take time.  Keep talking to others.  Consider how you yourself need forgiveness.  Also consider how you might be acting like a fool by holding onto your anger.  Keep working on it, and you probably will be able to spit the hook.
  •  Fourth, take stock, move on, and teach others what you have learned about how to forgive.  This world needs help in learning the practical skill of forgiveness.  Once you have learned it, teach others what you know.  What worked for you will not necessarily work for them, but your example will most surely help.

So Dare to Forgive and set yourself free!

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