Eight Keys to Forgiveness: Part 2

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3. Address your inner pain

“It’s important to figure out who has hurt you and how. This may seem obvious; but not every action that causes you suffering is unjust. For example, you don’t need to forgive your child or your spouse for being imperfect, even if their imperfections are inconvenient for you.

To become clearer, you can look carefully at the people in your life—your parents, siblings, peers, spouse, coworkers, children, and even yourself—and rate how much they have hurt you. Perhaps they have exercised power over you or withheld love; or maybe they have physically harmed you. These hurts have contributed to your inner pain and need to be acknowledged. Doing this will give you an idea of who needs forgiveness in your life and provide a place to start.

There are many forms of emotional pain; but the common forms are anxiety, depression, unhealthy anger, lack of trust, self-loathing or low self-esteem, an overall negative worldview, and a lack of confidence in one’s ability to change. All of these harms 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.

You may be able to do this accounting on your own, or you may need the help of a therapist. However you approach looking at your pain be sure you do it in an environment that feels safe and supportive.

4. Develop a forgiving mind through empathy

Scientists have studied what happens in the brain when we think about forgiving and have discovered that, when people successfully imagine forgiving someone (in a hypothetical situation), they show increased activity in the neural circuits responsible for empathy. This tells us that empathy is connected to forgiveness and is an important step in the process.

If you examine some of the details in the life of the person who harmed you, you can often see more clearly what wounds he carries and start to develop empathy for him. First, try to imagine him as an innocent child, needing love and support. Did he get that from the parents? Research has shown that if an infant does not receive attention and love from primary caregivers, then he will have a weak attachment, which can damage trust. It may prevent him from ever getting close to others and set a trajectory of loneliness and conflict for the rest of his life.

You may be able to put an entire narrative together for the person who hurt you—from early child through adulthood—or just imagine it from what you know. You may be able to see her physical frailties and psychological suffering, and begin to understand the common humanity that you share. You may recognize her as a vulnerable person who was wounded and wounded you in return. Despite what she may have done to hurt you, you realize that she did not deserve to suffer, either.

Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our hearts can help open the door to forgiveness.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on May 6, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    Acceptance – yes. I can buy into that.
    Forgiveness – no. The most I can muster is indifference.

  2. One of mine just exploded

    I had no boundaries after childhood

    An event can change your life

    Hell I spend my time trying to stay alive
    Trying to not suffer

    I have not recovered from this betrayal

  3. Posted by rudid96 on May 7, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    I hear your pain and I know what it means to suffer. I am so sorry that you are hurting.

  4. I am sorry so many are hurting and will continue to hurt

    Some kids are living in abuse and will suffer like us their entire life

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