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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

A Definition of Forgiveness That We Can All Live With

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Updated October 03, 2011

Forgiveness. It's such a hard thing to do, but it can be so liberating to the soul. What makes it difficult for most of us to do is the way we define it. We think of forgiveness as meaning that we should say all is forgotten and things will go back to what they were. This Biblical definition of forgiveness is very hard for most of us to swallow. How can you forget the unforgettable? How can you forgive the unforgivable? To enjoy the benefits of forgiveness, however, we needn't go that far. All that's really required is that we make the decision to move forward, to let go of the old hurts. We don't have to condone what's been done. What's wrong is still wrong. We don't have to invite the person back into our lives or even be friendly with them. What we do have to do is allow ourselves to release all the negative emotions associated with that person. As long as we hold onto the pain, we are choosing to allow that person's past actions to continue to hurt us. We can also choose to stop letting them hurt us. That's a definition of forgiveness that's more doable for those of us who are less than saintly.

Here is an exercise you can do right now to let go of pain and begin to regain your life:

Make a list of those who have hurt you and how:

________________ hurt me by___________________________________________.

Now, go to a quiet place where you can be alone and think of each of these painful situations. Think of these in detail, allow yourself to feel the hurt. Then place yourself in the other person's shoes. What do you think motivated them to behave the way they did? Were they abused themselves? Do they suffer from a mental illness? What fears and insecurities motivated their behavior? Now, think of how they are stealing your personal power. Does this make you angry? Do you want that to stop? Yes! Now, fill out this part of the exercise for each person on your list. Speak the words out loud as if you are speaking directly to them.

________________, I now understand why you behaved the way you did and I am sorry that you are so filled with pain that feel you must inflict it on others in order to regain your own power. I refuse, however, to let you hurt me anymore. I am choosing to let go of the pain you have caused me, for my own sake. I realize that letting go of this pain does not minimize or condone your bad behavior. It does, however, validate my own worth as a person and my right to finally be free of your abuse. I am choosing to take back my personal power so that I may heal. I now release all the hurtful emotions I feel regarding your behavior. I am now free to heal and move on.

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