Written by: Ryan Light, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
When it comes to the process of forgiveness, many fail to understand that forgiving will not bring about long-term happiness. Yet when done properly, it is what can release you into that long-lost state of joy.
Why is that?
Because forgiveness is not about the perpetrator, but about releasing that noose around your own neck.
Happiness vs. Joy
One of the biggest setbacks you may face (and oftentimes why you might find yourself stuck) is you are searching and grasping for happiness instead of joy.
Happiness is a fleeting emotion.
Don't get me wrong, it is also a very strong emotion, but is one that doesn't tend to last very long.
You might believe a big house, new car, pay raise, promotion or the next relationship is all you need to fulfill that longing for happiness. Yet how often does reaching one of these goals only bring short-term happiness, while in the long run still leaves you unfulfilled?
Just as in the process of forgiveness, we often view it from the wrong perspective. You believe an apology from the perpetrator is what you seek, when in reality, that will only fulfill you for a very short length of time.
Joy, on the other hand, is a state of BEING!
Joy may feel less intense than happiness, but it is an emotion which will remain with you long term.
Because joy is a part of WHO YOU ARE!
And when you can learn and work through the forgiveness process correctly, long-term joy, not fleeting happiness, is what you will ultimately find.
What is Forgiveness?
As I stated above, the most important aspect you need to remember about the forgiveness is this:
Forgiveness is for YOU, not for them!
And when looking at this through the broken lens of trauma, the first place forgiveness needs to begin is with yourself.
You may not always realize you've continued to allow yourself to live within the confines of self-blame, shame, regret, guilt, etc. Basically, you are living life with a noose around your own neck – which is what cuts off the air supply to the likes of joy. This happens because you have yet to look in the mirror and forgive the one person staring back at you.
A mistake often made by many is that they forgive the acts of a person and not the person as a whole.
When you forgive an act, there will almost always be another one that surfaces. You will become triggered by each act, which keeps you stuck in a perpetual cycle of being triggered by the person.
It is when you change your perspective and learn to forgive the whole person (as opposed to pieces or parts), where you will find anxiety, anger, bitterness, etc. are replaced with contentment, peace and joy.
Once you walk through the forgiveness of self, this will then allow you to walk through that same process of forgiveness with others.
The Forgiveness Process
The forgiveness process consists of four phases:
The Uncovering Phase
The Decision Phase
The Work Phase
The Deepening Phase
The Uncovering Phase involves listing out those pivotal experiences which keep you anchored to your self-limiting beliefs, the impact each experience has had and/or still has on your life and then mapping out your past and present emotions tied to each.
The Decision Phase is where you need to consciously make a choice to forgive the abuser, or accept the struggles in your life due to them will continue. My suggestion here is to create a Pro/Con list, then think long and hard about what life might look like should you make a choice not to forgive.
The Work Phase involves 3 parts where you can begin to change your perspective about the offender. This work can be done through thinking about and writing out your answers to such questions as:
What was or is life like for them?
Were or are they struggling with their own unresolved trauma?
The 2nd part of the Work Phase is to list out what you like about the offender.
The 3rd step is to list out the qualities which made YOU based on the list above.
An example of the 3rd step might be;
You are now empathetic to the struggles of others due to what your offender put you through.
The 4th and final step is the Deepening Phase. At this point, I would have you write a "Love Letter" to the offender, read it aloud and then burn it. As you burn it, take a mental picture while the smoke rises and envision your hurt and pain being released. That way you can bring yourself back to the mental picture if/when you become triggered to this again and remind yourself this matter has already been taken care of.
When You Find Forgiveness Difficult
The forgiveness process is not always easy.
You may believe you don't know how to forgive, feel you can't justify it, are stuck in your story or just plain don't want to.
If you find yourself staring smack dab into one of these stumbling blocks, remind yourself of the following:
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting!
Forgiveness is NEVER for the perpetrator!
Forgiveness is for the perpetrated.
Forgiveness does not nullify or justify one's behavior.
Forgiveness is a conscious choice.
Forgiveness does not mean you need to reignite any type of relationship with the offender.
Forgiveness releases YOU from the anchors, hurt, pain and anger that have continued to keep you a prisoner.
It's when the forgiveness process is walked through properly which will solidify those situations/experiences in your life.
And when you can finally say, "I forgive you" from your heart, this will open up that space within to instead be filled with joy.
Remember, this process has nothing to do with their acknowledgement or acceptance of your forgiveness. It has only to do with your want to finally release that hurt and pain inside which has been holding you hostage for far too long.
Ryan Light, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Ryan Light is a mental health coach, author, thought leader, and influencer in the mental health space. Having spent 20 years of his life attempting to run, avoid and hide from the pain of his childhood and adolescence. He struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and panic disorder. After contemplating suicide, Ryan decided to finally confront his traumas through what he now coins “Feeling Work” and heal the real issues plaguing him with various mental health disorders. Today, his passion lies in guiding others through their struggles with anxiety, depression, and/or trauma through such avenues as social media, public speaking, self-paced courses, e-books, live workshops, and 1:1 coaching.