“There is freedom in forgiveness” (Dukes, 2021). In this article, we will delve deeper into the topic of forgiveness. First, we’ll learn how to practice forgiveness, and second, how to practice self-forgiveness.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness frees us from holding negative emotions towards a person, place, thing, or situation, etc. According to Merriam Webster, forgiveness is a noun meaning the act of forgiving, to “cease to feel resentment against (an offender)”. But how does this work, and how can we learn to forgive when we are the ones who made the offense?
Once you’re able to gain insight as to the benefits of forgiveness and or the power within you to decide when or if you will forgive, you’ll be better prepared to make the decision of whether you are ready or willing. “It is my belief that forgiveness is freeing, however, I also believe that self-forgiveness is the most significant element to emotional wellness” (Dukes, 2021).
When life challenges us, to “see the brighter side of things” is not always an easy task. Typically, the things that we are forced to see from a different perspective are those that we wish we could forget or erase altogether. There is no easy way to “get over” very difficult and life-changing trauma, especially when we feel, yes FEEL, we are to blame. Our feelings are valid, however, according to Pamela Nicole Dukes, this validation should have an expiration date. We need to learn to transition our feelings to facts (Dukes, 2021).
According to ‘Freedom in Forgiveness’, a Guided Workbook Journal written by Pamela Nicole Dukes, there are Four Essential Key Components to Forgiveness:
- The first is to accept the situation, this is often the most important first step. Denial can be detrimental to our emotional wellness and ability to heal. If we don’t learn to accept things for what they are, it will be very difficult to forgive ourselves and others.
- Second, give yourself permission and time to process the feelings you have about the issue. Forgiveness doesn’t take place overnight, it’s a gradual process. It’s okay to tell someone you’re not ready to forgive them if you’re still in the process of it.
- Thirdly, decide whether you want to forgive or not. The decision of whether or not to forgive someone or yourself, is ultimately yours. Forgiveness is often necessary for emotional and personal growth, some things may take more time, however. With practice, (professional & personal) support, and prayer, we can get through some of our toughest times.
- Finally, the process of forgiveness takes practice. Forgiveness and healing from a situation can go through both its hard and easy days depending on the hurt. Remind yourself that you decided to forgive so as to free yourself. Forgiving individuals doesn’t mean that the relationship has to remain the same as it was before, nor does it mean you forgive the act. It simply means that you have decided to become emotionally free from mourning the mistakes of your past made by you or others.
“Self-forgiveness is the most important forgiveness of all.” (Dukes, 2021)
Why is self-forgiveness so hard? According to an article written by Matt James, Ph.D there are Four Main Reasons Why It Can Be Difficult to Forgive Yourself:
- The first is that we often live in our narratives of past, present, and future. We must learn to let go of the past and its story, especially ones that we’ve created. This can be scary and daunting, but it’s the first essential step to releasing a piece of ourselves that no longer is a part of our identity. James writes, “Retain the lesson from the event but release all else” (James, 2022).
- The second reason is that we label the issue as something we’ve done ‘wrong’ either physically or mentally. The guilt we carry is deep-seated, and therefore it must be released from both body and mind. Our nervous systems continuously remind us of our regrets. For instance, with negative self-speech or saying things like, “I’m always messing up good things”, try identifying your limiting beliefs and release them so you can continue on your healing journey.
- Third, being ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ is so ingrained into our beings and society that it can be vulnerable to be open and honest about the mistakes we make. Admit to yourself that you made a mistake, so you can forgive yourself for it. Taking ownership of our failures or slipups is OK, and having them is human. Appreciate yourself for acknowledging and learning from your mistakes.
- Finally, it’s easier to forgive someone else than it is to forgive yourself. Why is that? We often find it easier to make amends and forgive someone we love such as a friend, family member, or even a significant other. Most of us don’t give enough love to ourselves as we do to others (which is a whole other story!). This can mean that we are quicker to give others the benefit of the doubt and forgive than we are to ourselves. Have you noticed how often you replay a mistake you made or a tough situation you were in over and over? We make ourselves relive the past and feel guilt repeatedly. With ourselves, we don’t have the option to ignore or avoid someone who hurt us, we can’t walk away from ourselves. Giving yourself compassion and forgiveness is the answer to moving forward.
Forgiveness is hard, but it’s one that will leave you feeling lighter afterward. Take your time, it’s not a race, just make sure that you are working towards your own personal fulfillment and healing.
Here’s an exercise you can try at home:
Write out a letter to someone or to yourself about a situation that called for forgiveness. This can be something you are in the process of healing from. In the forgiveness letter document your truth. Make note of how the hurt made you feel, what kind of mental anguish you suffered, as well as how it changed your behaviors (good or bad) in other situations or relationships.
After writing the letter, reread it, process it, and burn it! Set yourself free from it and solidify your forgiveness to yourself and the situation.
If you want to learn more about forgiveness, and how to practice it, visit amazon to purchase our ‘Freedom in Forgiveness’ Journal, by Pamela Nicole Dukes.
Thank you for reading and good luck healing,