“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.”- Mother Teresa

As a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) I ask a lot of questions. NDs endeavor to find the cause (or causes) of the issue. Sometimes the cause of the underlying condition is apparent, e.g., something dietary, and once treatment has addressed the cause a wave of healing can begin. Other times, the cause is unclear or perhaps buried under some layers, e.g., physical, mental/emotional or trauma issues. Healing can be a process. A process of uncovering and discovering things about our body and our life.

Life is full of stressors and events happen to us. These events can be perpetrated by people we know. Even family members or people close to us.

Hurt people hurt people.

Forgiveness is a choice to let go of the anger and hate.

Forgiveness may be what is needed for your body to heal.

No one has ever regretted the relief they have felt after forgiving someone. The regret lies in the year spent in anger withholding forgiveness.

The International Forgiveness Institute offers sound advice:

1. Uncovering Phase

During this phase the individual becomes aware of the emotional pain that has resulted from a deep, unjust injury. Characteristic feelings of anger or even hatred may be present. As these negative emotions are confronted and the injury is honestly understood, individuals may experience considerable emotional distress. Deciding on the appropriate amount of energy to process this pain while still functioning effectively is an important consideration during this phase. However, as the anger and other negative emotions are brought out into the open, healing can begin to occur.

2. Decision Phase

The individual now realizes that to continue to focus on the injury and the injurer may cause more unnecessary suffering and begins to understand that a change must occur to go ahead in the healing process. This person may then experience a “heart conversion” or, in other words, a life change in a positive direction. The individual entertains the idea of forgiveness as a healing strategy and then, commits to forgiving the injurer who has caused him/her such pain. Complete forgiveness is not yet realized but the injured individual has decided to explore forgiveness and to take initial steps in the direction of full forgiveness. An important first step at this point is to forego any thoughts, feelings or intentions of revenge toward the injurer.

3. Work Phase

Here the forgiving individual begins the active work of forgiving the injurer. This phase may include new ways of thinking about the injurer. The injured individual may strive to understand the injurer’s childhood or put the injurious event in context by understanding the pressures the injurer was under at the time of the offense. This new way of thinking is undertaken not to excuse the injurer of his/her responsibility for the offense, but rather to better understand him/her and to see the injurer as a member of the human community. Often, this new understanding may be accompanied by a willingness to experience empathy and compassion toward the offender.

The work phase also includes the heart of forgiveness which is the acceptance of the pain that resulted from the actions of the injurer. This must not be confused with any sense of deserving the pain but rather a bearing of pain that has been unjustly given. As the individual bears the pain, he/she chooses not to pass it on to others, including the injurer. This is often where the challenge of a “quest for the good” is most evident. Indeed, the individual may now become ready to begin to offer goodwill toward the injurer in the form of merciful restraint, generosity, and moral love. This may or may not include reconciliation. The goodwill may be offered while at the same time taking into consideration current issues of trust and safety in the relationship between the individual and the injurer.

4. Outcome/Deepening Phase

In this phase the forgiving individual begins to realize that he/she is gaining emotional relief from the process of forgiving his/her injurer. The forgiving individual may find meaning in the suffering that he/she has faced. The emotional relief and newfound meaning may lead to increased compassion for self and others.

The individual may discover a new purpose in life and an active concern for his/her community. Thus, the forgiver discovers the paradox of forgiveness: as we give to others the gifts of mercy, generosity, and moral love, we ourselves are healed.

Learn more about the International Forgiveness Institute here.

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