Forgiveness: Steps & BenefitsKen Canfield, Ph.D.
April 30, 2007
What's standing between you and forgiveness? Recent scholarly research confirms what many already know-that forgiving others is a valuable gift for ourselves. Research shows that when we forgive, we have less stress, anger, and other psychosomatic symptoms like headaches, upset stomachs, and so on.
I know many of us carry very deep wounds from the past, and can barely imagine forgiving our dads. It may take time, but I challenge you-if you need to-to commit yourself to forgiving him.
Or maybe there's a strained relationship with a child. One father just asked me to pray for him and his teenage son. He said they are "always at each others' throats" and nothing he tries seems to work. He also admitted that he owns some of the blame for the way things are. Maybe it's time he asked for-and extended-some forgiveness. Imagine how powerful an exchange like that would be in that home!
Here are some steps to forgiveness from the researchers:
First, we need to change our expectations of others. Instead of having "rules" for how they behave, we should have "preferences." After all, we can't control how others act. Maybe you'll never have a perfect relationship with your dad-or your teenager. But you can probably accept them a little more for who they are and-from there-build a good relationship.
Second, we need to try to see the other person's perspective. Maybe your dad never got what he needed from his father. His wound may have made him incapable of providing what you needed. Maybe your daughter is under a lot of stress with all she's dealing with at school. Considering the other person's perspective can make a big difference.
The third step is to move from blaming to acceptance, and then move on. Moving on may mean building a new, better relationship. Often, that's what forgiveness brings. But also realize that your forgiveness doesn't depend on them. If they don't respond or even if they reject you, you have still forgiven, released the hurt feelings, and committed to go on with life in a positive way. What a burden that can lift!