More Exercises in Forgiveness

Posted May 19th, 2016 in Couples Counseling, Featured, Individual Counseling, Relationship Issues by

Article 6-B of the Forgiveness Section of the Positive Psychology Series

In my previous article, I pointed out that forgiveness is a process and suggested an exercise that can help us to enter into this process of forgiveness. In this article, I continue this discussion by providing a further list of exercises that you can use to help yourself explore and engage the art of forgiveness. This is also the concluding article in my extended series on forgiveness.

Remember that forgiveness is not supposed to be easy – it is a worthy act, but a difficult one. So give yourself time and grace, and give it your best. If you have a place in your life that you recognize is hard or hurting, and that you need to forgive someone, try picking out one of these exercises and just going for it. It may feel as if you have a lot to lose in forgiving someone who has hurt you. But the beauty and mystery of it is that it is the unforgiveness that is costing you so much.

Emotional Story Telling

Using pen and paper, write down the emotional upheaval you experienced after a hurtful or traumatic event. This is a difficult exercise and you should expect to need time for it, and may need to write it out in more than one sitting. Having done this, repeat the exercise at least twice.

The very thought of specifically writing out your emotions about something traumatic can produce considerable anxiety. However, this practice can have a beautiful effect. It can help you to get past an automatic avoidance of thoughts and feelings, which can become a powerful negative habit in one’s life. It can begin to construct a framework of meaning around the hurt, so that you can make better sense of what happened and how it has impacted your life. By helping you to accept this painful story as part of your life, this exercise can help you to reintegrate yourself back into your normal life, despite the pain of doing so.

This exercise can be done on your own, but it would be greatly enhanced by writing and processing it with a therapist. If the event was particularly traumatic, consider your inner safety and don’t do this exercise without good support.

Letting Go of Grudges

This is a simple exercise, but it can also be fairly difficult. Take a deep breath, commit yourself, and give it your very best: It can be done. Identify someone with whom you have a grudge and toward whom you experience a lack of forgiveness. You might not even know them personally.

Then write down as many reasons as you can possibly find for why you are grateful for this person. This is possible and it can greatly assist you as you enter the forgiveness process. Try starting with gratitude that they are alive and have the same chance to breathe and love and learn as anyone else. Start with what seems easy, but do your best to find something that sees beauty – even in this person who hurt you.

Finding Benefits in Adversity

This last exercise is more advanced. Gauge within yourself and use your wisdom to determine whether you are ready to try this. If you are, make sure that you are committed to doing your creative best. Make sure that you have a support network or a therapist to help you.

Take 20 minutes per day for three days and write down the ways in which you have benefitted from a particular transgression. This may seem mind-boggling at first, but it is a way of taking back your story and your power from a hurtful event or person. As human beings, we grow and survive – and our adaptability and resilience are great strengths we should be proud of. Hurtful experiences often end up somehow being a catalyst for our becoming who we are – and in a good way.

This exercise can help you to reframe your hurtful experience by finding meaning in it. This may also help you to cope with the hurt, and to regain a sense of worth, control, and power. It is important to note that this is certainly not an exercise in thanking someone for hurting you, or for a way of condoning the transgression. As with forgiving, it is another way of taking power away from your transgressor and letting go of the heavy weight of pain that we tend to carry.

Christian Counseling to Tap into the Power of Forgiveness

I hope that this series on forgiveness has been helpful and that it has inspired you to try forgiving. Don’t give up, and don’t wait to start if you’ve decided to go for it. May God bless you and give you the strength and wisdom you need to forgive as He has forgiven.

If you would like to engage in Christian counseling from a strengths-based perspective, please contact me to inquire about setting up an initial session in order to explore how counseling might fit with your journey and perhaps assist you in the matter of forgiveness. It is my pleasure to join with clients and help them to see the ways in which they have already overcome in life, and how God has uniquely shaped them both to do great things and to experience joy and goodness in their lives and relationships.

Photos
“Letter to apologize,” courtesy of Annie Pilon, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Being Unwilling to Forgive,” courtesy of BK, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); https://flic.kr/p/mP59Rv “Letting Go,” courtesy of BK, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)

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Andrew Engstrom

Andrew Engstrom, MS, LMFTA

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate

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