Choosing to Forgive your Ex
The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes:
"Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor. When we forgive the person who harmed us, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves. Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self-interest. This is true both spiritually and scientifically."
Tutu says, “To forgive is also to release yourself from whatever trauma and hardship you have experienced and reclaim your life as your own.”
Eight Keys to Forgiveness (by Robert Enright)
This essay has been adapted from 8 Keys to Forgiveness (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)
Below is an outline of the basic steps involved in following a path of forgiveness, adapted from 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
1. Know what forgiveness is and why it matters
Forgiveness is about goodness, about extending mercy to those who’ve harmed us, even if they don’t “deserve” it. Forgiveness is a process with many steps.
2. Become “forgivingly fit”
To practice forgiveness, it helps if you have worked on positively changing your inner world by learning to be what I call “forgivingly fit.”
3. Address your inner pain
It’s important to figure out who has hurt you and how. This may seem obvious; but not every action that causes you suffering is unjust. For example, you don’t need to forgive your child or your spouse for being imperfect, even if their imperfections are inconvenient for you.
4. Develop a forgiving mind through empathy
Scientists have studied what happens in the brain when we think about forgiving and have discovered that, when people successfully imagine forgiving someone , they show increased activity in the neural circuits responsible for empathy.
5. Find meaning in your suffering
When we suffer a great deal, it is important that we find meaning in what we have endured. Without seeing meaning, a person can lose a sense of purpose, which can lead to hopelessness and a despairing conclusion that there is no meaning to life itself.
6. When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths
Forgiveness is always hard when we are dealing with deep injustices from others. I have known people who refuse to use the word forgiveness because it just makes them so angry.
7. Forgive yourself
Most of us tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others and we struggle to love ourselves. If you are not feeling lovable because of actions you’ve taken, you may need to work on self-forgiveness Soften your heart toward yourself.
8. Develop a forgiving heart
When we overcome suffering, we gain a more mature understanding of what it means to be humble, courageous, and loving in the world. If you shed bitterness and put love in its place, and then repeat this with many, many other people, you become freed to love more widely and deeply.