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Once you have completed the activities for this step, ask yourself if you have forgiven all of the individuals on your forgiveness list. Have you released your anger, resentment, and hatred toward them? If so, for each person on your forgiveness list, write in your journal, “I have forgiven you,
(name), for__________________ (whatever you have forgiven him or her).”
After writing each name, thank your higher power, however defined, for your willingness to forgive and for the help that made it possible. Conclude by asking your higher power to bless the person you have just forgiven. If you feel a sense of having forgiven the person, if you feel your anger released, and if you feel lighter of spirit, your forgiveness is complete.
If, for any reason, you want to tell the people on your list that you have forgiven them, you may do so in person, by telephone, or by letter. In the case of those who are deceased or unreachable, you can send them a healing letter if you have not already done so.
When Forgiveness Doesn’t Come
If you do not want to write “I have forgiven you” for each of the people on your forgiveness list, continue to work on forgiving those you have chosen not to forgive at this time. Prepare another section in your journal titled “Tools of Forgiveness.” For each of the unforgiven people on your list, develop a custom set of spiritual and psychological tools specifically designed to help you forgive that person. Then apply these tools daily until forgiveness comes. Include the following:
• Prayers for the willingness to forgive
• Prayers for the person you are seeking to forgive, asking that they might be blessed
• Affirmations of forgiving
• Visualizations of forgiving
• Journaling about your continuing resistance to forgiving this person
In addition, use these tools regularly:
• Sharing with others, including your confidant, about those you have not forgiven
• Thought analysis, including the benefits of forgiving, the reasons to forgive, and the price of not forgiving
• Healing letters
Over time, some of the resentments you had against the people you have forgiven may creep back into your life. If so, you will feel less forgiving of
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those who have harmed you, especially if some form of interaction with them is still required. Do not be discouraged. You can grant forgiveness and retract it many times before it becomes a permanent condition. But each time you forgive, it will be easier, until it finally becomes such a natural part of your life that you will do it quickly and, generally, with little effort.
If a permanent state of forgiveness for someone seems to take a long time to achieve, be patient. If you have forgiven once, you can forgive again. Forgiveness is a process, which means that you may sometimes slip back into your old ways of thinking and behaving even as you are developing new ways. Return to this step if your resentments come back. Review what you have written and use the same exercises to reforgive. The road to forgiving may be long or short, bumpy or smooth. But it is a rich and rewarding road that leads to the greatest of treasures: freedom and love.
Step Nine: Forgiving Ourselves
The door to freedom from regret is open.
Will you walk through it?
Step Nine brings you to the threshold of accomplishment, to the time of letting go of your regrets. All the effort you have expended since reading the first page of this book has prepared you for this step, the step of freedom. In the ninth step, you will forgive yourself for whatever role you played in creating and maintaining your regrets. Then you will let go of those regrets to leave the pain of the past behind and step boldly into the present with all its possibilities.
Letting go of your regrets is by made possible by self-forgiveness. The model in Step Eight that worked for forgiving other people applies equally well to forgiving ourselves. There are two important distinctions, however. In self-forgiving, we are both the grantor and the recipient of our forgiveness. The second distinction is that with self-forgiveness, as opposed to forgiving others, reconciliation always occurs. In fact, that is one of its goals. Through self-forgiveness, we will experience the deep joy of reconciliation with ourselves that comes from both forgiving and beingforgiven. In self-forgiveness, we are reunited with ourselves and so experience profound healing. Like all forgiveness, self-forgiveness is an act of love and a gift of the spirit that comes back to us many times over. When we have forgiven ourselves, we feel right with the world. We have no apologies to
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make, nothing about which to feel guilty, and nothing of which to be ashamed. We are free.
Self-forgiveness is essential to letting go of regrets. No matter how many times we have forgiven others or others have forgiven us for the regrets we hold, we will not be truly free until we have forgiven ourselves. Even if others have not forgiven us, however, we will still find the same freedom in our self-forgiveness.