Ok, you heard it. The apology. Hard to tell whether it was absolutely sincere, but you’re willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Now what?
I often hear people use the worn out cliche, “forgive and forget.” Contrary to popular opinion, those concepts are not like salt and pepper. Instead, they’re like pizza and calzone — more likely to be consumed separately than together.
We can accept an apology regardless of whether we forgive and/or forget. Accepting simply lets the offender off the hook. Forgetting the act which necessitated the apology is not realistic. But forgiving? That’s where the real work happens.
Forgiveness is not the same as condoning or excusing. Instead, it’s a straight path to peace of mind. When we forgive, we are actually healing, by letting go of our deeply held negative feelings.
Why forgive? The psychological research is undisputed. Forgiveness makes us happier and healthier. And it’s essential to sustaining our significant relationships.
How to forgive? This part is a lot trickier.
First, you have to express your feelings. When you actually make the effort to articulate how the other’s person’s words or actions made you feel, you’re effectively validating yourself and taking ownership of your emotions. Were you aggravated? Annoyed? Disappointed? Did you feel terrified? Uncomfortable? Miserable? You get the idea.
The next step in forgiveness is to seek peace rather than justice. Think about this for a moment. Unless you’re literally a judge delivering a sentence, you really have no right to dispense justice. But you have the absolute right to peace.
And finally, understand that forgiveness is strictly for you. While it might seem like it’s of a greater benefit to the person you’re forgiving, the opposite is actually true.
Forgiving isn’t necessarily a solo activity. Many times and in many situations, it can be a mutual event. If there’s a long-term grudge involved, it might be helpful to have a neutral third party assist in at least starting the conversation. As we’re approaching the new year, it’s natural to want to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. If you’re able to sit in the same room with your soon-to-be-ex-adversary, give me a call. I’ll help you get started and share some tools to assist you in the process. As always, I offer a 30 minute initial consultation at no charge.