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The Art of Forgiveness

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Each of us has experienced the feeling of someone doing wrong towards us in our lives. While the situations can take on infinite forms, the results are usually the same; we feel hurt, angry, and betrayed. To make matters worse, when the perceived wrong is perpetrated by someone we love, we take it more personally, and our emotions are that much more amplified around it. But after we've lived with this anger and hurt, most of the time we realize it does us no good, and the only way to stop carrying it around is by forgiving, which can be one of the most difficult choices we make. We can either hold on to the often justified but negative feelings, or we can choose to forgive.

The Art of Forgiveness

1. Feel it. It's impossible to let go of something unless you feel it completely. Chances are, reliving what happened is not going to feel good, but it's necessary to take stock of exactly how and why it affected you - only then can you begin to deal with it.

2. Express it. This step is best done without involving the other person - yet. Write down all of how you feel, or talk to an impartial friend. Don't censor yourself - it's important to get everything that's bouncing around in your head out of it.

3. Take responsibility for what you feel. We control our emotions - no one else does. So even if you are justified in feeling angry or upset, it's your choice whether you want to continue to feel this way or not. Prolonged negative emotions can seriously affect your health, sleeping habits, workplace environment, and your other close relationships. Do you want to feel this way? Could there be some kind of emotional payoff that's allowing you to subconsciously get satisfaction from it? Oftentimes our past situations can be triggered by present events, taking us back to a place where our emotions felt similarly. But if we never dealt with our emotions the first time, it's very easy to disproportionately project them onto a new situation.

4. Talk to them. It's very difficult to get to a forgiving place unless we're able to know the other person understands how their actions made us feel. Having our feelings acknowledged helps us to not feel so powerless, which is often where the anger and hurt come from in the first place - they're our way of feeling like we have power over the situation.

5. Listen to them. There are two sides to every story. If you refuse to acknowledge (not necessarily agree with) the other person's side, forgiveness will be elusive. Try to understand where they're coming from, and be courageous enough to accept you may have had some part in what happened as well.

6. Rebuild. Discuss what is acceptable behavior on both your parts moving forward, so this doesn't happen again, and have both parties agree.

7. Forgive. Choose to forgive and convey this to the other person. Keep communication lines open and honest, and agree not to hold grudges, because grudges have no part in forgiveness.