Forgive and Forget
It's not always easy, but the benefits of forgiving -- and 'forgetting' -- can be powerful. Here are some tips.
When Not Forgiving Is OK
But some people cannot forgive, and that's OK too, according to Jeanne
Safer, PhD, a psychotherapist and the author of Forgiving and Not
Forgiving. For some of her patients, recognizing that they don't have to
forgive is a huge relief.
"Many don't have to forgive in order to resolve their feelings," Safer says.
"They say, 'I can never feel OK about these terrible things, but I'm not going
to be vengeful.'"
To help them achieve this resolution, Safer offers a three-step process. The
first step involves re-engagement -- a decision to think through what
happened. The second step, recognition, means looking at every feeling
you may have about the injury. "You ask yourself, 'why do I want revenge?'"
Safer said. "Revenge is based on powerlessness and it's doomed to failure."
The final step involves reinterpretation of the injury, including an
attempt to understand the person who caused it. "This is where forgivers and
nonforgivers divide," Safer said. "Sometimes you're not able to reconnect with
the person, but if you go through this process, at least you won't be a
Forgiveness research proliferated after the publication in 1984 of
Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve, by Lewis B.
Smedes, who claimed that forgiveness produced benefits for the forgiver.
Safer, however, is wary of those who picked up on this idea and started to
promote what she calls "promiscuous forgiveness."
"What's important is working it through and achieving resolution, whether it
leads to forgiveness or not. Forgiveness involves wishing the other well.
You're already there if you don't wish them ill," Safer says.