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The Psychology of Forgiveness: 7 Lessons on How to Finally Let Go and Forgive Someone | Nick Wignall

Forgiveness and anger don’t mix

It’s normal to feel anger towards your offender. But unchecked anger often leads to unhelpful amounts of mental elaboration over the wrongs done to you.

When you notice yourself feeling angry, pause briefly and acknowledge the anger, then ask yourself if your anger will do you any good in the long-term. Just because your anger is justified doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

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The Psychology of Forgiveness: 7 Lessons on How to Finally Let Go and Forgive Someone | Nick Wignall

The Psychology of Forgiveness: 7 Lessons on How to Finally Let Go and Forgive Someone | Nick Wignall

https://nickwignall.com/forgiveness/

nickwignall.com

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Key Ideas

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be able to forget a serious wrong committed against you. But it’s a mistake to assume that because your mind is drawn to a specific thought or memory, you should allow your attention to stay there.

Acknowledge your memories but then choose to re-focus your attention elsewhere.

Forgiveness and anger don’t mix

It’s normal to feel anger towards your offender. But unchecked anger often leads to unhelpful amounts of mental elaboration over the wrongs done to you.

When you notice yourself feeling angry, pause briefly and acknowledge the anger, then ask yourself if your anger will do you any good in the long-term. Just because your anger is justified doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

Forgiveness does not mean endorsement

Acceptance does not mean endorsement or justification.  Acceptance means acknowledging that you don’t have power or control over the past.

Accept the offense against you without excusing it. The key to taking control of your future is choosing to let go of the desire to control the past.

Forgiveness does not require reconciliation

No matter how much you want the person who’s wronged you to see the error of their ways, offer a heartfelt apology and restitution, and mend the relationship, you can’t control that.

Don't make forgiveness contingent on reconciliation. Hope for reconciliation if you wish, but don’t expect it.

Forgiveness is not one decision

Forgiveness is not a decision; it’s an attitude, a habit of mind.

Forgiveness begins with a single decision but it doesn’t end there. Be prepared to continue to forgive, day in and day out. And while it may get easier with time, forgiveness is forever.

Forgiveness is not a feeling

Most people who are struggling to forgive desperately want to feel better. How you feel emotionally about a serious wrong committed against you is not fundamentally under your control.

People do tend to feel better as a result of forgiveness, but it’s a mistake to expect a certain set of feelings. Forgiveness is a commitment, not a feeling.

Your road to forgiveness is your own

Cultivate the habit of looking beyond and beneath your most obvious emotions and noticing smaller, quieter ones.

Allow yourself to feel the sadness, regret, and pity for what happened. You may be able to see your offender and offense in a new light and help you to think and act differently.

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Forgiveness
  • Forgiveness is choosing to accept what happened as it happened rather than what could or should have happened. 
  • Forgiveness can mean that you let go. 
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Forgiveness is a process

Forgiveness takes time for most. Shock and anger often come before forgiveness. Deal with the hurt feelings before moving into forgiveness.

The act of forgiving is one of realizing that holding onto the anger and resentment no longer carries the same weight on us.

Forgiveness ≠ weakness

One roadblock people face with forgiveness is the idea of being seen as "weak" and saying that what the offender did is excusable.

It requires more strength to forgive. Staying angry, resentful, and vengeful can have a detrimental impact on your physical and emotional health as well as your relationships.

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Be sincere

The only time to apologize is when you’re genuinely remorseful. 

Avoid any apology that is forced. The person you are apologizing to will pick up on your ...

Be honest and vulnerable

In order to show your sincerity when apologizing, you must be honest and vulnerable. That can lead to the cultivation of meaningful relationships. It can also lead to rejection, which is what makes it so scary. 

When you apologize, be willing to share openly and candidly, allowing emotions to flow freely, so that you can be fully seen.

Admit fault

Take responsibility for your actions and admit your mistakes or transgressions. State them out loud. Yes, it will be scary. It will feel shameful for a time. But it is worth it.

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Dealing with your anger

Anger leads us to poor decisions, regrettable behavior, or hurt feelings. However, some anger leads to more significant consequences, like strained relationships or legal trouble.

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Anger ≠ aggression

Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. They differ entirely in one central dimension - control.

  • You can't control your emotions directly. In the legal system, nobody gets sent to prison for how they felt, regardless of how angry they were. They get punished for what they do.
  • You can influence your emotions indirectly by how you think and behave. For example, when you focus on how terrible all the drivers in your town are, your anger will likely increase. But, if you listen to music and think about how grateful you are, your anger will probably subside.
Expressing anger

While you can't control your emotions of anger directly, you have control over your aggression, which is a decision to express your anger.

Aggression does not only involve acts of violence. Being overly-critical or judgmental of someone in your mind is an act of aggression, as is replying sarcastically or rolling your eyes at someone.

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