Have you ever felt hurt, angry or betrayed? Then someone tries to give you advice by saying, "Let it go. Forget it. Stop complaining." This is infuriating because you feel justified in holding a grudge or you don't know how to "let it go."
Things that forgiveness does not mean:
• Forgetting. The rule of thumb is to forgive but not forget. You want to remember so as to learn from the situation and make appropriate choices in your future.
• Being a martyr. You can forgive someone for being a human being and doing what humans sometimes do – mean, nasty, atrocious things. But you can also take action by being assertive, never allowing it to occur again.
• Blind trusting. You can learn from the past and decide whether or not you will choose to trust that individual again.
• Reconciling. You may wish to have nothing to do with that person ever again. This is your life... your choice!
• Maintaining the status quo. You may wish to alter agreements based on the transgression. You now decide what is good for you.
Four blocks to forgiving
1. Believing others must apologize. You can choose to forgive even when others do not apologize or make amends. Forgiveness is for your sake, not theirs.
2. Believing you are letting them off the hook. You can take action and fight for your rights, requesting compensation or restitution, and still forgive.
3. Believing that forgiving shows what was done was acceptable to you. You can forgive, be at peace and still forcefully object to offensive treatment.
4. Believing that forgiving shows that the transgression was unimportant. Taking assertive action shows that you care and are willing to do something about it. You do not have to hold a grudge as this only hurts you.
Forgiveness is self-empowerment
Forgiveness is a conscious choice you can make. You choose to forgive. Remember: "To err is human, to forgive divine." It is a mature, moral philosophy.
To forgive with conscious awareness strengthens and empowers you to take action out of love for yourself and those you care about. Be assertive. Take action from a place of love, tolerance and compassion... but take action!
Forgiveness, for most of us, takes practice. It can be difficult but it is possible with practice. The more assertive you become (not hurt, angry or hostile) the easier it is to be forgiving.
Focus on the goal of having a happy life. When someone hurts you, ask yourself whether you would rather be happy or right? Choose happiness.
Psychotherapist Daniel Rutley is author of Escaping Emotional Entrapment, available in bookstores and at www.DanielRutley.com.
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