“Overcoming harm is not a comfortable process. It’s a painful one.”
Joshua Bynum, the Clinical Director of the Methodist Counseling Center in Boise, Idaho, offered his thoughts on steps to forgiveness to staff writer Joe Iovino. You can read Joe’s full article, including the interview with Bynam, here. Bynum offered his thoughts on reaching a place of forgiveness, especially in painful situations.
“No matter what harm has happened in my life,” Bynum offered, “resentment about it is never going to help me; not forgiving is never going to benefit me.”
Bynum recommends two steps in moving towards forgiveness of others: identifying the harm done to us, and working to change what we can control.
Identifying the feelings
“The first step for me in anything that has to do with resentment or forgiving of others,” Bynum shared, “is to recognize your own physical feeling of discomfort associated with that person or situation.”
“The words fear, anger, sadness, and others, are symbols that represent or symbolize a physical feeling,” he explains. “My face gets hot. My hands get tense. I get a lump in my throat and a hollow feeling in my stomach or a tightness in my chest. Then I call that combination anger.”
Those sensations are unpleasant, so we avoid stimuli that bring them on. We dodge the person who hurt us. We refuse to think about what happened. We pretend, and say everything is okay when it isn’t.
“People aren’t trying to hold on to their resentments,” Bynum explained. “They are trying to avoid thinking about the things that give them a physical feeling of discomfort.”
Forgiveness, however, requires entering into those uncomfortable feelings to arrive at a place of healing on the other side.
What can I control?
When one holds a grudge, “the focus is very much on that other person,” Bynum explained. We want them to apologize, to show remorse, to recognize that they hurt us. Then we will forgive them, we say.
“You can never guarantee that another person is going to offer you all of the things you want so that you’ll be able to forgive them,” advised Bynum. “I can’t make somebody else be forgivable.”
Bynum instead encourages us to turn our focus inward because “the only person who has any control over whether or not I let go of resentment, is me.”
We can’t control other people. That means that our process of forgiveness may not lead to a point of reconciliation, or to place where our relationships are restored. When the other parties involved are a threat or unreachable, interacting with that person or group of people isn’t prudent.
“You can have forgiveness without repairing a relationship,” said Bynum.
Forgiveness is about addressing the hurt within, and that work is not dependent upon anyone but us.
For more, including some words of encouragement, read the full article.
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