Forgiveness

Forgiveness Is a Learned Skill

It is a power move to take back your life.

Posted Feb 28, 2020

otsphoto/AdobeStock
Source: otsphoto/AdobeStock

Forgiveness is both a learned skill and an ongoing daily process without a beginning or end. It is a statement that you are going to live your life on your terms, and no one person or situation is going to take that away from you. 

The sequence of becoming angry is:

  • Circumstance or person who has wronged you (real or perceived)
  • Blame
  • Victim
  • Anger

There are many ways to forgive, but anger is so powerful that no one ever wants to let it go. Becoming aware of your unwillingness to move on is the first and most critical step. Being a victim is a strong role, and it helps you feel safe, whether you are or not. You are never going to wake up one day and feel that you want to give it up. You must keep making an ongoing choice to forgive.

The first step is becoming aware you are in a victim role. There are many disguises.

Then you have to decide whether you want to remain in this role. There is no magic. It is a simple intellectual choice of, "I don't want to continue being a victim."

Methods of forgiveness

Then there are many ways of accomplishing forgiveness. Most of this I have learned from Dr. Fred Luskin, who is a friend of mine and author of Forgive for Good. (1) Some suggestions include:

  •  Understand how detrimental it is to hold on to the past and not live in the present. Dr. Luskin calls this scenario "renting too much space in your mind."
  •  Just "let go." Is this person or situation worth disrupting your day and peace of mind?
  •  Reframe the situation. Make a choice not to view yourself as a victim and look at challenges as opportunities.
  • Cultivate awareness—just being aware of your anger will dissolve it. Especially when you realize that it exists only within you.
  •  Identify your grievance stories—Dr. Luskin also makes the observation that if you tell the same story more than three times where you are the victim, you have a "grievance story."
    • This is particularly relevant when suffering from chronic pain when it really was someone else's fault. How long do you want that person or employer to run your life? They are not worth your time.
  • The unenforceable rules—There are many situations and people in life that you wish would be different, but you have no control or say. It is fine to want a better scenario, but when that wish turns into a mental demand, it is problematic. Spending time being upset about things you have no control over is a complete waste of time. 
  • Have compassion—I mention this gingerly because this step is difficult and not mandatory to move on. However, if you can develop deep compassion for someone who has wronged you, your life will change, and you really will be free. Most people, including me, can't achieve this without professional help.
  • This is particularly relevant when suffering from chronic pain when it really was someone else's fault. How long do you want that person or employer to run your life? They are not worth your time.

Anxiety and anger

Remember that anxiety is simply a physiological response to a threat and is the sensation generated by elevated stress hormones. When the situation resolves, your body will return to its baseline chemical balance, and you'll move on.

When you can't escape the stressor (pain), then you'll secrete even more stress chemicals in an effort to regain control. That is anger. It is an even more powerful irrational survival reaction that is not subject to control. It is turbocharged anxiety.

Anger traps you when you hold on to the story of the wrong. You can't change the situation, but you do have a choice to let it go through whatever forgiveness method that you can connect too. I will never forget Dr. Luskin's comment at a workshop where he pointed out the insanity of holding onto your childhood trauma.

Few of us had perfect childhoods, and many of us had horrendous ones. His point was that it was fine to blame your parents for your problems until you were 18. But then it was time to admit that you were now the one in charge of continuing to destroy your own life. 

 iQoncept/AdobeStock
"Time to forgive" clock
Source: iQoncept/AdobeStock

The key to dealing with anxiety and anger is using specific methods to lower these hormones, and it is not just an intellectual exercise. Processing anger is truly the tipping point of solving chronic pain and ushering in a new life that you may have never experienced even prior to the onset of your pain. Learning to forgive is your biggest opportunity to thrive and create a circle of joy in your sphere of influence—especially within your family. Try it.

References

1. Luskin, Fred. Forgive for Good. Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2002.