Self-care

Psychologist Post: Revealing the Power of Forgiveness

Power of Forgiveness
Power of Forgiveness

Learning forgiveness may be your best New Year’s lesson

As we come to the end of another year, it’s common for people to reflect on their past accomplishments (and failures), and to take resolve that the next year will be different. Usually we focus on specific things about ourselves that we ultimately have the power to control: we want to eat better, exercise more, drink less, sleep more, spend less money, spend more time with our kids, etc. All of these things are ways that we seek to better ourselves, by ourselves. However, what about the ways in which we might affect the progress of betterment of others as they are on a similar quest? Is it possible that how we see and relate to one another can create a stumbling block and stunt the growth that might otherwise be possible?

My experience has been that we can and do exert more control over others than we realize

This can happen in a variety of ways, but the element that has stuck with me the most has been on the power of forgiveness. For those who are of a Christian faith, this time of year may naturally evoke thoughts of forgiveness through reflection of the life of Christ, his sacrifices, and the forgiveness of sins. Even if you do not adhere to a Christian faith, forgiveness is something that affects all people on a daily basis. A lack of forgiveness can greatly impact the growth of others, as well as the growth we see in ourselves. New Year’s Resolutions are about a drive to take ourselves out of the box that we (or others) have put us in, yet one of the greatest hindrances I have seen to this has been in an unforgiving heart.

Power of Forgiveness
Power of Forgiveness

When we make the choice not to forgive others for wrongs they’ve done, we are essentially holding them inside of the very box from which they may be working to escape

Likewise, others who hold grudges or bitterness against you will likely continue to relate to you in a certain way, even if you’ve made efforts to change and correct yourself. This may not matter much to you if you don’t interact with people who hold these grudges, but unfortunately that is not often a reality. More often than not the ones who we hurt, and are hurt by, the most, are the ones we are closest to-our spouse, children, parents, and close friends. This happens because of the simple fact that these are the people we spend most of our time around. They are the ones who see us at our worst. They are the ones whose faults we can see more clearly than anyone else’s. We become conditioned to the ways we see and relate to the ones we are close to, and that can make it challenging to take notice if someone starts to make changes in themselves, especially if those changes are subtle or happen gradually.

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

At its core, New Years Resolutions are about a desire to start fresh with a blank slate

I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want that to some degree in their relationships with others, or even in their relationship with themselves. This is not to suggest that we can solve all of our problems by simply choosing to start over. If that were possible, we’d certainly have done that by now, wouldn’t we? There may be hurts that have been in effect for years. Infidelities, addictions, and abuse are all examples of wounds that likely continue to inflict damage even after they’ve happened, and many such circumstances will require extensive support, time, and patience before they are resolved. However, what if we all approached this next year with a commitment to see each other not for who we currently are, but for who we want to be? What if we made an effort to help one another get outside of our boxes and support each other as we seek to make changes, rather than holding onto the past and using that to tear each other down? There is no denying that we are imperfect beings-we all stumble and fall on a daily basis in one way or another. We do a great job of that on our own, so we really don’t need others to remind us of where we’re failing. What we DO need is compassion, support, and patience as we strive to do the best we can with what we have and who we are.

Power of Forgiveness
Power of Forgiveness

So this New Year, take a moment to reflect-not on how you need to change yourself, but on how you can strive to change the way you see others

Focus on what you can do to help others get outside of their box, and more than likely you’ll find someone who is equally willing to do the same for you. Forgiveness is a multi-layered concept, but taking a step in it today will help that process to unfold.

Forgive everybody.
Forgive everybody.

The following resources were utilized to help construct this article and are a great place to start if you’re looking for additional guidance and support in this process:

Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enright, Ph.D. © 2001

Families & Forgiveness by Terry D. Hargrave, Ph.D. © 1994

Wishing you all a Happy (and forgiving) New Year!

Christina Stai

Author: Christina Stai

Dr. Christina Stai is a licensed clinical psychologist in both California and Iowa. She specializes in young children and received her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from Azusa Pacific University, an APA accredited school near Los Angeles. She completed an APA accredited internship and APPIC accredited postdoctoral fellowship at a residential emergency shelter with abused and neglected foster youth.  We are proud that she has joined Hope Springs.

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