Forgiving Others

In the Four Steps to Forgiveness, we shared the steps someone can (and should) take to seek someone's forgiveness. 

But what if on the other end, the one who needs to do the forgiving?  And what if the other person doesn't follow through on the four steps?  Here's some advice on forgiving someone else:

Acknowledging Your Role in What Happened

There are usually two (or more) sides to a story.  And it's pretty rare when one person is 100% guilty and the other pure as the driven snow.  When one partner cheats, for example, there's usually some problem at home he or she is avoiding.  Maybe not always, but usually.  When someone steals from another, he or she may be taking something they think they "deserve."  Again, they're probably still over 50% wrong – maybe even 98% wrong, but as you learned in the Reasons Why, it happened to you for a reason.  What was it?

Letting Go of the Anger and Resentment.  (Detachment)

At some point, you've got to just let it go.  In fact, some philosophers have said the definition of forgiveness is "to drop it."  Others suggest forgiveness is "giving up the hope of a more enlightened past."  (Think about that one a while!).  But in the end, if you hang on to the resentment you're only hurting yourself.  You know that, don't you?  How many ailments arise from the stress of anger, hatred and resentment?  If not, do the research.  

Seeing Some Good in the Other Person (if though it may be difficult!) 

Everyone has good points and bad.  No one is 100% dark.  As Goo the Guru, from DUET Stories Volume III: A Chorus of Voices, might say, "there are infinite shades of gray between pure light and lure darkness."  So…what are some good things about the other person?  Make a list.  Write it down.  If your anger has been raging, perhaps this can stifle it a bit.  Just one caution: just because someone isn't all bad, it doesn't mean that he or she is good for you.  Often, you need to just send send them away with good thoughts…

Sending Good Thoughts

Yes.  It might be difficult, but it really helps to send someone who's wronged you good thoughts.  (There's a great story about this in the Reasons Why book).   When you can understand that the more enlightened the other person becomes, you'll see that it will improve their chances of realizing what they did was wrong.  And, of course, it reduces the chance they’d ever do it again.

And, if applicable, Accepting His/Her Apology

When an apology is given, when you're lucky enough to hear those words, accept them graciously.  Hopefully, the other person will want to follow the Four Steps.  But even if not, be the better person – STAY the better person and say, "Thank you."  


Just because you do these things, it does NOT mean that you sit back and do nothing, or don’t have a role in the “punishment," or become passive in what happens next.  Remember the quote by Edmund Burke:  "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. "  Besides, it’s possible you have an unwritten “spiritual” contract with that person to be the one who helps them learn.  If you do nothing, then you: (a) cannot claim any honor that this kind of assistance brings, and (b) might not be able to truly – and lastingly – forgive.  Especially when you sense that you could've prevented someone else from the same kind of pain you went through.  Just make sure your energy is coming from a high level, and not one of anger and the need to "get even," or you'll just bring on more of your own karma until you learn to do that!  

Four Steps to Forgiveness

Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen discusses the "Four Steps to Forgiveness," for distinct actions to take when you seek someone's forgivness.  Here's a recap:

Step 1: Admit Wrongdoing
It's not just about saying "I'm sorry."  Getting someone to forgive you requires that they know you know what you did was wrong.  You shouldn't have done it.  All too often, someone says they're sorry but it's more that they're sorry that you're upset – not that they really regret what they did (which means it's more likely they'll do it again!  See below).  Admitting wrongdoing opens the dialogue that leads to healing.  
Step 2: Apologize
Those magic words, "I'm really sorry," are both crucial and cathartic, especially when combined with the other steps.  For most people "I apologize" just doesn't carry the same kind of punch.  
Step 3: Make Amends
Do you really want the relationship to move forward in a positive direction?  Offer to make amends.  To do something to show you're serious about getting their forgiveness.  You can come up with something on your own, but it's even better when you ask them what they'd like you to do.  Some people might say, "nothing," but don't let them get by with it!  Make them give you some task, large or small, to demonstrate your appreciation for their forgiveness.  (Have some delightely wicked ideas?  Some milder, but just as effective?  Share your thoughts in our discussion group!)  
Step 4: Not Do it Again
You've admitted what you did was wrong.  You've apologized sincerely.  You've even paid your price by making amends.  You wouldn't want to lose all that work, would you?  Hopefully not!  But just to be clear: DON'T DO IT AGAIN!  Whatever you did before, if you repeat the offense, you're not only stupid (sorry, but I have to call it as I see it), you probably don't deserve another chance.  That old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me," comes into play here.  Do you really think the other person would – or should – keep letting it happen to him or her?  Really?  If so, you need to consider…perhaps you weren't looking for forgiveness in the first place.  Perhaps your motives were, let's say, less enlightened?