Forgiving someone is never easy. But we need to practice forgiveness for our own sake as it liberates us from pain, hatred, and negativity. Here are the stages of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is freedom
It’s hard to forgive someone when they have hurt you. You feel anger and frustration. You want them to feel the same pain you are feeling. As self-justified anger and pain engulfs you, you find yourself in a position you did not anticipate to be in. Yet, here you are. And no amount of anger and hatred is going to change that. In fact, the more negative feelings you hold on to, the more difficult it is going to be for you to feel better. It is only through forgiveness you can release yourself from the pain and liberate your mind to find a solution out of this situation. When you go through the stages of forgiveness, it empowers you to repair and rescue relationships.
“The full process of forgiveness is a liberating experience. One that if practiced smartly can lead to terrific life experience,” explains psychologist Dr. Fred Luskin Ph.D. He adds “We have the choice to forgive or not to forgive and no one can force us to do either. Conversely, if we want to forgive someone no one can stop us no matter how poorly they may act. This ability to forgive is a manifestation of the personal control we have over our lives.”
Read also: What is Forgiveness? How do I Forgive?
Stages of forgiveness
Forgiving someone is easier said than done and perhaps this is why it is often misunderstood. It is a process and not something you can do immediately. The stages of forgiveness were developed by Dr. Robert Enright. Being one of the leading researchers on the topic, he created a comprehensive model that can allow us to understand the process better and apply it in our lives more effectively.
He writes “When life hits us hard, there is nothing as effective as forgiveness for healing deep wounds. I would not have spent the last 30 years of my life studying forgiveness if I were not convinced of this.”
After conducting different studies, Enright developed a model with around 20 stages which can be combined into the following four stages of forgiveness, according to Mind Fuel Daily:
Stage 1: Uncovering
The first stage of forgiveness requires you to think about your pain. You must recognize, experience, and address your inner pain. Express your emotions and try to identify them. Think about:
- Who has hurt you?
- How have you been hurt?
- What specifically has made this experience so painful for you?
- How exactly do you feel?
- How will it affect your relationship?
This stage compels you to face your emotions and confront the experience and inner pain to fully understand what you are going through. It is only when you gain a complete understanding about the incident and your emotions, you can start the process of forgiving.
Dr. Robert Enright explains that all negative emotions like anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence “can be addressed by forgiveness; so it’s important to identify the kind of pain you are suffering from and to acknowledge it. The more hurt you have incurred, the more important it is to forgive, at least for the purpose of experiencing emotional healing.”
Stage 2: Deciding
Once you have addressed your inner feelings, you can now decide to begin the forgiveness stage. Actively deciding to forgive someone who has wronged is one of the crucial stages of forgiveness. Although we can choose to forgive someone, it is often a natural process. Most of the time we decide to forgive the other person because we start to realize that negative feelings do not serve us in the long run. It is only by the forgiveness that we can start healing ourselves.