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Three Steps of Forgiveness

September 19, 2020
To end the cycle of abuse, it's crucial for victims to complete a three step process. Understanding the Truth behind forgiveness ensures victims don’t become perpetrators themselves, as a trauma response, or continue to be victimized by the transgressor. 
  • Validation 
  • Cancellation
  • Empathy 
It's All About You
Forgiveness is for you, comes from you and is your responsibility to yourself. In other words it's all about you and your well-being. To forgive, you must first become aware of and acknowledge the offense that has been committed and how it's devalued you. This process is called validation and without it, there is nothing to forgive. One cannot cancel a debt they don’t know exists, which is why validation is the first step toward forgiveness. Everyone is different and whether it takes moments or years to validate loss, it’s essential that time not be a factor in the equation of validation.
You Were Wronged
Cancellation of a debt is the second step towards forgiveness. It is acceptance that you are giving up your right to collect what is legitimately yours because you recognize you will never get back that which was wrongfully taken. To put it simply, it is recognition that the debt incurred by the crook can never be repaid. Cancellation of a debt does not need to be communicated to the offender because forgiveness is for your benefit not theirs. Additionally, forgiveness does not automatically generate reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. Reconciliation is an obligation only the wrongdoer can pursue, whereas forgiveness is a responsibility regulated exclusively by the injured party.
Empathy Empowers You
Empathy is the ability to sense and understand the emotions of another by imagining what the other person might be thinking or feeling. When applied to forgiveness of a perpetrator, the victim experiences deeply the inherent injustice of forgiveness because they are expected to feel empathetic emotions for the person who didn’t show any regard for them. If one is to look at empathy as compassion for the human condition, which we all suffer from, then it begins to seem plausible to obtain. Empathy is what releases a victim from the mental grip the perpetrator’s unjust actions hold over them.
Be careful though to not confuse empathy with sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for the culprit and is equated with pity. In the Greek, ‘sym’ means together and ‘pathos’ refers to feeling sorry or sad for. Another way of viewing it is that sympathy is becoming one with the trespasser in an emotionally sorrowful way, whereas empathy, in its basic form, is the action of understanding. Differentiating between the two is ultra-important because one entangles you with the perpetrator and the other frees you from them!
Remember forgiveness is for your benefit and is a heart issue which means nothing needs to be communicated to the offender. Having empathy does not excuse the perpetrator for their behavior and it is not victim blaming. Empathy empowers you to move fully through forgiveness so you can live from a point of healing and peace instead of trauma.
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by Bonnie Penner

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