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The following Action List will guide you through Step Eight:
Action List: Step Eight
1. List the people to forgive
2. Reasons your forgiveness is needed
3. Benefits of forgiving
4. Reasons for not forgiving
5. The act of forgiveness
Complete the Action List for each of your regrets in accordance with the following guidelines. Use the spiritual and psychological tools to overcome any resistance you encounter to forgiving each of the people you blame for your regret or against whom you hold any kind of resentment.
1. List the People to Forgive
Return to your journaling exercise for Step Two (“Examining Regrets”) and reread the list of people whom you still blame for your regrets. Most of the people you need to forgive will be on this list. Identify anyone else con-
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nected with your regrets whom you still resent, blame, or hate. This is your forgiveness list.
2. Reasons Your Forgiveness Is Needed
In this activity, describe what each person on your forgiveness list has done to hurt you, and, hence, why you hate, blame, or resent him or her. In other words, for what must you forgive each person on the list for your forgiveness to be complete?
3. Benefits of Forgiving
Review the benefits of forgiving described earlier in this chapter. Which of these benefits would you reap from forgiving each person on your forgiveness list? What other benefits can you list that you would receive from forgiving each of these people? Understanding these benefits and writing them down will help you overcome any resistance that you might have to forgiving these people and remind you that you forgive not for them but for yourself.
4. Reasons for Not Forgiving
Examine the reasons you have for not granting complete and unconditional forgiveness to each person on your forgiveness list. The myths of forgiveness may help you in identifying some of these reasons. Use thought analysis and other spiritual and psychological tools to counteract these reasons after you have identified them.
If you are still unwilling to forgive, the following journaling activity will help you uncover additional reasons you have for withholding forgiveness. For this exercise, first identify each person on your forgiveness list whom you are still unwilling to forgive. Then complete the following sentence
for each of these individuals, inserting his or her name, and finishing the sentence with whatever reason comes to mind:
I would forgive you, (name), except that___________________
If you are still resistant to forgiving after completing this sentence, repeat the exercise with the next reason that comes to mind. Continue the process until you run out of reasons for not forgiving this person.
When you have journaled in this way about every person whom you are unwilling to forgive, you will have identified your reasons for withholding forgiveness. Now you can use thought analysis and the other spiritual and psychological tools to overcome them and to find the willingness you need. In addition, you may want to use two other techniques to help you forgive. These are described in the following paragraphs.
Developing Compassion for Others
If you are having trouble forgiving someone, try to develop compassion for that person just as you did for yourself in Step Seven. In that step, you accepted that you had done the best you could, given who you were at the time of the regret and the circumstances that existed then. In reaching some understanding of why you behaved as you did, you prepared yourself for developing a similar understanding of how others might have behaved as they did in creating or adding to the regret that now burdens you. After all, they, like you, may have done the best they could, given the circumstances that existed at the time and their own psychological and spiritual condition.
Of course, you cannot read the minds of other people, and you will never know what really motivated them. In the case of brutality, random violence, or sexual abuse, it is hard to feel compassion, because the offense is so outside our understanding. You can, however, appreciate that something went terribly wrong in the offender’s life. It is possible to develop compassion without knowing the specific reasons for the offending party’s unacceptable behavior. For example, you can appreciate, intellectually, that there had to be difficulties, struggles, and defects of character that led to the unacceptable actions, or they would not have taken place.
Alcoholic parents are an example. Compassion does not excuse their
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alcoholic behavior—either their abusive acts while drinking or their failure to get into recovery. It does not justify their actions, condone their behavior, or absolve them of accountability, but it may explain some of what they did. You will never know the real reasons for their behavior, of course, unless they tell you, and even they may not know. You cannot know the details, but you can grasp that they were troubled souls whose behavior was destructive and unacceptable, very likely to them as well as to you.