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When It Is Time To Forgive

By Bill Lee-Emery

There eventually comes a time for forgiveness with any painful emotional issue. If that time is now, this process may be of service to you.

Arrange a room where you will not be disturbed for a period of time. You will need two chairs for this process. You may find it useful to have a supportive friend to lead you through the process.

1. Check how your body is feeling. Notice your general physical state of being.

2. Then think of a specific incident that you still feel unhappy about with another person. Imagine them sitting opposite you in the other chair and describe in detail all the unhappy, painful and hurtful things that affected you back then and still hurt now.

Be aware of how your physical state changes in response to re-thinking about that incident. Note the changes, i.e. tight sensation in your stomach, heaviness in the chest area etc. List the changes you notice in as much detail as you can. Describe them in sensate terms (heavy, tight, sharp....) rather with labels of feelings (angry, sad, hurt...).

3. Now imagine that you could change places with them and tell yourself (now sitting in the opposite chair) how the situation is, from the other person's perspective. What was it you did? What were your attitudes and actions?

Be willing to put yourself in their shoes and thereby gain invaluable insights as to how you appear to another person. This is also an opportunity to learn about their pain and hurts. Your compassion for others can assist your own healing.

4. Now go back to your own chair. What have you learned about yourself? Have you gained any insights into the other person who deserves your compassion? We all make mistakes...the only "bad" mistake is not learning from them! Your willingness to learn can lead you to greater personal peace. Be open and receptive rather than closed and rigid.

5. Check your own body again. Where are you still holding the pain in your own body? Describe the dimensions, shape, size, intensity, colour, location etc. How long has it been there? How long do you wish it to remain? Do you really want to keep hurting yourself? How much do you wish for peace instead of pain?

You do not have to forgive totally today. Many people find it effective to release their pain in smaller pieces.

Allow the inner Child to decide how much it feels ready to let go. Now is the Child's chance to release pain and experience peace.

6. Verbalise the rewards of forgiveness and also any hidden agenda for holding onto resentment, guilt etc

i.e.'I'm willing to forgive so that I can allow more love into my life.'

or 'I'm willing to release the past...and the mistakes.'

or 'I'm still going to partially punish him/her (and myself in the process).'

or 'I'm still temporarily hanging onto the myth that I can hurt you by hurting me.'

You don't have to forgive 100% today,you can do it in stages. But be honest. You are not likely to really forgive from the heart until your Child is ready to.

Encouragement will do more than `bulldozing' yourself from a sense of self-righteousness or duty.

7. Notice the pain of the other person. How are they still trapped/hurt/scared or closed off? How can you both win from this experience? What can you learn and teach each other?

The key to forgiveness is giving up your "claim for revenge".

Do this at your own pace. At the same time, notice that the more you forgive the better YOU feel.

8. When you have decided how much you are going to forgive in this moment of time, look at the person, and from your wisdom and compassion, talk to them from your heart. Tell them you have realised that people make mistakes and people get hurt - and that you are willing to break the cycle. Let them know that you are now ready to release the mistakes from the past and forgive.

It is now time for the carnage to stop.

You may find these phrases useful as a starting point.

"I'm willing to release myself from the pain of my own resentment/guilt etc."

"I willingly give up my claim for revenge."

"I accept that you (and I) made a mistake and I'm learning from it now."

"I'm sorry for the pain I may have caused you."

"I'm willing to accept that I made a mistake too...and I forgive myself also."

"As I understand more about your pain, I'm more ready to forgive. Please forgive me also."

"I thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more deeply about myself."

9. Check with your own body once more. What has changed? How has it changed? Describe the dimensions of the pain that you had been carrying. Is there more to release? Set a time to release more old hurt.

The sure way to tell if you have forgiven from your heart, and not just from your head, is the physical response in your body at the end of the process of forgiveness (a feeling of lightness, softness etc). When you feel a physical change occurring, you have truly forgiven from your heart. If there is no physical change, then you have merely gone through an intellectual process. Start again and this time involve your heart.

10. Finally, thank yourself. Healing the past is a holy event.

Further ideas....

Make a list of all those people in your life who may have wronged you. Include members of your family and close friends, lovers, spouses, business colleagues, bosses/employees and put yourself on the list also!

Decide which people and situations are in the following categories

  1. Deep seated painful events

  2. Important events but not as painful as the first category

  3. Trivial annoyances.

Start learning the process with the last category 3)the annoying things that happen. Practice the process until you feel happy with your success.

Then take a few events in category 2) and practice with those. Discover the power that forgiveness can have with these situations and people.

Finally, having gained confidence and greater peace, work on the more painful events from life. If needed, ask for help from a professional counsellor, or if you wish, contact me directly.

About The Author
Bill Lee-Emery is an Executive and Life Coach. He has been a corporate trainer and facilitator for over 20 years. Bill is author of 'Stop Procrastinating' and 'How to get out of your own way and play better golf!'

You can get his newsletter, 'On Track' by visiting his web site

© by Bill Lee-Emery 2004

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