The 5 Stages of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a subject that’s bandied about a lot these days. There’s a lot of talk on the subject, and a lot of books and youtube videos, pods and posts on the subject.
There’s no doubt now that UNforgiveness can cause a lot of mental health issues (and ultimately also, many physical health issues), create barriers to living the life you want, and can also ultimately negatively affect our most precious relationships as well.
This blog post is not about the effects of unforgiveness, or why you need to forgive. It’s not even going to address how forgiveness is actually all about YOU and NOT for THEM. I think we’re good on that information! Instead, this blog is going to be about ‘my take,’ on the steps to forgiveness.
Let me know your thoughts.
The first step towards achieving forgiveness (in your heart, and for yourself), is the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that UNforgiveness exists. That someone has hurt you and that it affects you. BOOM.
The next step in this journey is AWARENESS. The awareness that not only does UNforgiveness exist (and that it affects you), but you are also becoming AWARE of HOW it affects you, your reactions, your choices, your actions and your feelings. This part is really exploratory and is best discovered through activities such as journaling, meditation, counselling, introspection, talking with trusted loved ones.
Another HUGE component of forgiveness is EMPATHY. Empathy for Self, and for Others (and please remember - ALL of these steps are a journey in & of themselves). It’s not like BAM, I’ll have empathy, and it’s done. Empathy for Self and Others is a journey, but the key here is ‘conscious and deliberate’ empathy.
Note here: one thing you can’t do is fake it. Fake empathy is not empathy. If it’s fake, it’s not gonna work. When working on at engaging empathy it's a highly reflective practice that will involve at least some talk therapy, journaling and the expressing of the inner & repressed, as well as addressing conscious/unconscious rage before you can even think of reaching a true and genuine empathic state - and that is equally true for anger with SELF or for OTHERS. Holding onto anger (even if it is truly deep, buried and repressed/ignored) will hold back an authentic empathy process. So start with expressing that repressed rage (doing a process similar to journal speak will guide you in this process, so visit this link here, check it out, and do a similar process).
After the EMPATHY step (which is probably the longest and hardest part, in my experience, although ALL of it is hard), is ACCEPTANCE. Sometimes it’s not even necessary to move past this point consciously. Reaching this stage, after going through all of the previous stages results in a side effect result of eventual forgiveness. So, therefore, a deliberate decision to forgive is not necessary - just aim for acceptance, and reach it through actioning the other steps, working on being able to process your part, their part, knowing it won’t change, but that you are now empowered and equipped, ready to take over control of your own future (instead of placing it in the past, and with those people who hurt you), and hey presto!...
(Eventually). Sounds so easy, hey? Don’t be hard on yourself. Forgiveness can sometimes be a lifetime journey (especially if this person keeps on hurting you), but one thing we are NOT promised in life is an easy journey. We are able to rise above, given the right tools, the right people to support us and a strong/healthy mindset. Time to heal is also imperative (see the stages of grief and my blog about grief at Christmas to relate). Most importantly, be kind to yourself. See a GOOD counsellor and get yourself some tools, practice offloading and processing, and know that while there is no magic bullet, but there are many many paths to forgiveness (not just my take that I’ve expressed here today).
Much love and well wishes for your journey,