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June 19, 2017

The Four Phases of Forgiveness

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This week, Jess discusses the importance of forgiveness on Global TV’s The Morning Show with Jeff McArthur. She briefly outlines the four stages of forgiveness therapy and the benefits of forgiveness in the video and summary below.

How do you forgive someone who has wronged you?

First you need to understand what forgiveness is.

Forgiveness isn’t just about saying or hearing you’re sorry. And it’s not about declaring your forgiveness to the world. Forgiveness involves letting go of negative feelings — it’s a conscious choice by someone who acknowledges that they were wronged (i.e. they weren’t deserving of the poor treatment), but opts to let go of the negative feelings nonetheless.

And forgiveness is a distinct process from other responses; when you forgive, it’s not the same as condoning, forgetting or excusing behaviour.

Once you understand the meaning of forgiveness, how do you put it into practice?

You can follow the forgiveness therapy model, which in simplified terms involves:

1. Uncovering phase: Acknowledge the injury. Sometimes we think we’re upset about one thing, but we’re really upset about something else. If you’re going to practice forgiveness, you need to identify the incident which requires your forgiveness.

2. Decision phase: Understand forgiveness and opt to forgive. Your forgiveness is not tantamount to forgetting or absolving another person of responsibility.

3. Work phase: Attempt to understand the wrongdoer’s perspective and acknowledge your own pain. Why might they have behaved in a specific manner? Can you empathize and feel compassion as opposed to anger and frustration.

4. Deepening phase: Reflect and examine deeper meaning. Reflect upon your own behaviour and past offences. Consider potential positive meaning to reduce resentment.

If you and a family member have been fighting for a while (or one of you has cut the other off entirely), how do you forgive and approach a reconciliation?

Reconciliation is an extension of the forgiveness process — sometimes considered the next step.

If you’ve forgiven someone for past actions, let them know in writing. I’m of the belief that writing a note or email is one of the most efficacious ways to reopen the lines of communication. When you write a letter, you have time to review what you’ve written and make sure that it truly reflects how you feel.

Tip: reread your note in the angriest (or most sarcastic) tone possible and make edits to any sections that might be misinterpreted.

Is it worth it? Are there any benefits associated with forgiveness?

Yes! When you’re angry or stressed, cortisol levels spike. Chronic anger is associated with elevated blood pressure and lowered immune response — these bodily changes are positively correlated with increased risk of depression and heart disease.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, is positively associated with greater life satisfaction and positive health measures. Marital longevity, harmony, and satisfaction are also strongly tied to the ability to forgive.

Forgiveness is a powerful process. Mahatma Ghandi explains: ““The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”