Advertisement

On Faith: Six steps of forgiveness

June 29, 2012|By Deborah Barrett

What can we do when we have made a mistake that has caused harm to others? Is there anything we can do to be free from guilt and again feel peace of mind?

A process for asking for forgiveness from others and learning to forgive ourselves involves six steps. It is easier to enter into this kind of a process when there is a path, a guide and some support, which most religious and spiritual traditions offer. The process is personal and flexible, and it should be regarded as a guideline or suggestion, not a rigid set of rules that can fit every situation exactly.

The first step is a willingness to admit we have done something wrong. This is easier to do when our philosophy or theology affirm the essential dignity and worth of the human being, while at the same time recognizing fragility, shortcomings and the inevitability of wrongdoing.

Advertisement

We can more readily allow ourselves to be honest and humble rather than to stubbornly defend our ego or idealized self. This step is also difficult when it causes us to see clearly the suffering we have inflicted on someone else, and to experience their pain as our own.

The second step is to consider why we did the harm. This involves "soul searching" to better understand what motivated us to do something we now regret. We must be thorough if we want to be genuine about our remorse, compassionate in understanding ourselves, and sincere about not repeating the wrongdoing.

This is not a justification or rationalization but an attempt to increase self-awareness. For example, a spouse may have little understanding about why he or she was unfaithful. Someone else might not know why he says cruel things and can't seem to stop doing it. Another person might not know why she lies, often for no reason.

Consideration should be given to all of the particulars, whether the harming was intentional or unintentional, serious or minor, a first time or repeated. This willingness to face the parts of us that are selfish and the desire to make steady progress in living more genuinely is essentially a spiritual process. It may include meditation and prayer, journaling or the use of a workbook, therapy or counseling, activities at church, synagogue or temple, or other resources.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|