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The Power of Sorry - Responding to Apologies - Forgiveness

forgivenessThese blogs about when and how to apologize got me thinking of the other part of this process, that of forgiveness. There are many aspects of forgiveness, such as forgiving the person, or forgiving the organization. In the clinical mindset, we are concerned that we not force someone to forgive. Forced forgiveness ends up not usually being sincere, nor does it stick. The person who was hurt can come to feel that they were manipulated into forgiving, and that can cause more bitterness.

And yet, people frequently have a hard time knowing when to forgive. Some can focus so much on not forgiving too early, that they end up never getting to forgiveness. And others are dealing with someone who wronged them who is unwilling to ask for forgiveness, or has passed away. When I help people who are in this process of finding when to forgive, I try and help them practice forgiving. I encourage them to think about what their life would look and feel like once they had forgiven. In this practice, or pretend stage, they can try on different attitudes or feelings. In many cases, this has helped move them to forgiveness because it shows them what they will gain by forgiving, not just what they might lose. We often get stuck in a vengeance or retribution frame when we feel like we can only be content when the other has been harmed equally to our hurt. I doubt that can usually be achieved, and I also doubt that would really make someone feel better. Forgiveness is our great gift, which we can give the other, but most importantly, ourselves.

Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

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