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If you spend any significant time online these days, learning to practice forgiveness is a hugely popular subject. From social media to life coaching sites, and from self-help gurus to business and career coaches, it seems carrying a grudge is no longer acceptable in our culture.

What’s up with that, anyway?

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

While the power of forgiveness is evident to thinkers like Gandhi, there are others who may not see it in such a positive light.

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” – Oscar Wilde

All joking aside, through the counseling and therapy we offer in our Littleton office, we have discovered that the ability to forgive is one of the keys to long-term mental health and happiness. In other words, being angry at someone who has hurt you is one thing, while staying endlessly angry benefits no one, least of all yourself.

Carrying resentment around with you all day requires a huge amount of energy – negative energy that could be put to better use if you were to harness it in a positive way. While it may indeed be human nature to live with bitterness and hostility toward those who “done you wrong”, study after study have shown that a positive outlook is far more conducive to “living the good life” and finding joy in your daily pursuits.

Having said that, these are merely reasons for you to practice forgiveness. The Big Question is, “How”?

The Fourfold Path to Forgiveness

Written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World, is more of a blueprint for practicing forgiveness than the more common justification for why you should do so.

As one reader’s review put it, “I don’t need another book telling me all the reasons [to forgive] – I’ve been looking for books that give the how do you go about this – how do you get there when you are so bitter and so angry.”

This is the goal of Tutu’s book, to share the path that will lead you to overcome the quite natural impulse toward indignation, animosity, and spite that develops out of betrayal, abuse, bullying or other wrongs being done to you. The problem with this type of thinking is that it leads to incredible stress, and a cycle of anger that feeds on itself, often leading to self-hatred due to the inability to overcome such resentment.

Following deep reflection on the process of forgiveness, Tutu has seen that there are four important steps to healing:

  • Admitting the wrong and acknowledging the harm.
  • Telling one’s story and witnessing the anguish.
  • Asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness.
  • Renewing or releasing the relationship.

Of course, this is still not an easy process. One must be mindful of the goal to practice forgiveness every day. Yet, it is only through walking this fourfold path that Tutu says we can free ourselves of the endless and unyielding cycle of pain and retribution.

Are you struggling to be more forgiving of others, and of yourself? Contact us today for a consultation.

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