What steps can we take to give up a grudge and forgive someone who has hurt, disappointed, or betrayed us?
The following strategy model for learning forgiveness is derived from an amalgam of work by several researchers and my own work as a psychologist:
1. Look deeply into the root of your anger or grudge. Explore the situation honestly without embellishing or rearranging the details. Pay attention to how this anger is holding you back and keeping you hostage in your own day-to-day existence.
2. Stanford University Senior Consultant, Fred Luskin, talks about the way we develop our grievance story in his book, Forgive For Good. Your grievance story is the one you tell over and over to yourself and possibly to others about the way you were treated unfairly and the way you felt victimized. Review your grievance story and reengineer that story so you see yourself in a more empowered way. Perhaps you cut loose a friend or family member that was consistently hurtful or you had the fortitude to get out of a toxic marriage. You had the strength to leave a bad situation. You were indeed the hero in your own story. Look at the strengths that you developed as a result of this situation. Being hurt or compromised can be your invitation to transformation.
3. Develop your capacity for empathy and compassion. More often than not abusers have been abused themselves and they are operating at a deficit. Without ever being accepting of the hostile behaviors, try to understand the pain and suffering the abuser must be enduring.
4. Create new associations with your old story of neglect or abuse. Perhaps you can practice a ritual that signifies the end of things as they were and say goodbye to the past as you once experienced it. Welcome the good, the support, and the love that you now invite into your life. Celebrate the end of an era and the beginning of a new phase of life. Light a candle, perhaps to symbolize the brightness of the moment and the days ahead.
Remember that you cannot control others, but you can control your own choices. As you continue to reshape your grievance story, becoming the heroine of that story, develop empathy and compassion for the abuser and celebrate your strengths; you will undoubtedly begin to notice a shift in your consciousness. Your feelings of anger and sadness are likely to quiet down and your self-esteem is likely to blossom, as will your relationships.
I would love to hear your experiences around practicing this forgiveness strategy.