Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Forgiveness or Reconciliation...

Anger and resentment can be a great drain on the energy of anyone with compassion fatigue or chronic sorrow. And forgiveness or reconciliation can bring equally great renewal.

Forgiveness is different from reconciliation. As marriage and family therapist, Tom Moon, says, "Forgiveness means letting go of the past, but reconciliation is about committing to a future."

Forgiveness means letting go of anger, resentment, hurt, judgment and condemnation. It means giving up the victim role and the desire for revenge. It is something we do on our own, for ourselves, to prevent these feelings and actions from poisoning our own lives.

Reconciliation, on the other hand, is a process where both parties own and acknowledge their parts in the problem, without excuse or blame, and strive to restore trust in the relationship. It's something we do together for the sake of the relationship.

We are free to choose forgiveness or reconciliation as our goal in any situation. And, oddly enough, when we know that we don't have to reconcile, we can often be more generous with our forgiveness. (Fear of being hurt again by an unrepentant person can be a legitimate reason for forgiving but not reconciling.)

Both forgiveness and reconciliation are processes, often lengthy ones, so they can take patience and persistence. In considering forgiving someone, Tian Dayton, PhD, author of The Magic of Forgiveness, suggests writing the answers to the following questions:

1. What is the forgiveness issue I'm working with?

2. Where am I stuck?

3. What will I gain if I forgive?

4. What will I need to give up if I forgive?

5. Why am I afraid to forgive?

6. What feelings keep coming up when I contemplate forgiving?

7. What do I feel angry about?

8. What do I feel sad about?

9. What, if anything, am I holding against myself?

10. What, if anything, am I holding against someone else?

11. What do I think forgiving myself or this person will mean?

12. What do I want it to mean?

13. What am I afraid it might mean?

14. What do I imagine forgiveness can give me that I don't have now?

Reflecting on these questions can help to ready us for the steps to forgiveness listed on the website for Zen Habits by therapist, Allison Mupas, MFT:

1. Journal or talk to someone about what happened, your feelings, and let it all out.

2. Look at your side of the event, disagreement, or problem. How did you participate? Do you have anything to clean up? ("Clean up" means take responsibility for.)

3. Consider whether you're even willing to forgive yet. If not, take some steps to work through the underlying feelings.

4. Make the decision to forgive anyone involved in the situation. Don't forget yourself, if you need it. Decide if you need to say or write anything to anyone involved to get your feelings out and be heard.

The person you are forgiving does not need to be willing to receive them or to be present for you to complete this process. You can ask an objective person to be on the receiving end if you don't feel safe or comfortable going to the person with whom you're upset. You can visualize that you are speaking to that person when you are speaking to a friend or objective listener.

5. Let go! Keep in mind that you are choosing to forgive. If you are holding on to a belief that the other person has to do something before you forgive, you may be choosing to remain stuck. If you find situations re-stimulating the old feelings of hurt, you may need to repeat step 1.

Keep in mind that this process is not easy but it is very rewarding and can be very freeing...

If you are having difficulty with your forgiveness or reconciliation process, you might want to contact a counsellor, spiritual advisor or professional coach for help.

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