The Four Stages of Forgiveness

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

The wounds of the past can take years to heal. And the only act which will ever seal them, dear one, is forgiveness. But forgiveness can be achingly tough, because you don’t want to admit you were wrong to hold on to your pain.

Your ego wants to be right, and it doesn’t want to roll over like a dog and have its belly tickled. It likes to hold rigidly onto every wrong, and make the other pay.

That’s not to say being forgiven is being pardoned. Far from it. Forgiveness acknowledges the other has done something wrong, and it releases you from your emotional response to it. It also puts up boundaries, so you need not be hurt again.

Now, let’s take a moment to study the opening quote from this article a little better.

You didn’t choose to be hurt. Or course you didn’t. It was perhaps the other’s pigheadedness, or a divine way of allowing you to learn the lessons you came here to learn.

You are not the weak in Gandhi’s wise words. You are strong… You just haven’t done the forgiving yet.

But you will.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes uses four stages to work her clients through forgiveness. In order, they are:

This article, covers the following topics :

To Forego ~

To forego, is to detach dear one. You will need to stop thinking about them. In being without them; in our presence, in our words, and in our thoughts for a while, we may begin to heal.

You must be brave and allow yourself to recognize you haven’t forgiven them. And you need to give yourself time to live. For a while, at least. Forego them.

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Be without them, and be without the anger. Be without the story, and know that, when the time is right, you’ll be able to face the unforgivable, and bring it to the surface. Without them taking up space in front of you, go without.

In psychological studies, the first step is to be angry. But you’ve already been angry, and it has defined you. If you need to be angry, forego by being physical. Sweat it out of yourself by running, or rowing, or swimming.

Forego by shifting your focus. The only way to get out of a cycle of unforgiveness, and therefore stagnancy, is to move the flow of attention, from the target of your upset, to something else.

To Forebear ~

Now you have decided the time is right, dear one, you can practice generosity, and forebear.

To forebear is to have compassion. And you are ready. You are able to see the situation from a higher perspective, and can see the person for who, or what they are. A learning mechanism. The seams are revealed to you and you are able to play god.

This may come to you in pieces. You decided you wanted to forgive them, but the memories of the injustice still come flooding back. When you decide to forgive, the universe will conspire to make it happen. It’s been waiting for you, and it’s happy you are finally here.

You can see the bigger picture, and you know what you need to do. But it’s going to take you out of your comfort zone. So hold on, it’s coming.

To Forget ~

When you no longer seek to hold a person accountable day and night, then it means you are ready. You’ve had enough of thinking about what wrongs they did, no matter how awful their actions.

And you’d like for those memories to no longer be who you are. You’re moving away from the story my love, and you wish to be free from it.

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Sometimes, we need to refuse to dwell. You can put it in a drawer marked ‘forgiven’, and move on. You can put a figurative lid on it, and decide to make peace. You may always know about those terrible times, or that deep sense of hurt, but you will no longer need to spit fire or sob into your pillow about it. Even in light of the most unforgiveable acts, you can find peace from them in allowing yourself to forget.

Forget, forget, allow yourself to forget. You won’t regret it child, it’ll make you strong again. It’ll make you wise.

“It is important to remember that a “final” forgiveness is not a surrender.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

To Forgive ~

The final stage of forgiveness, is to let go. In releasing the other from the debt you hold them to, you are also setting them free.

Not to be without blame you understand. But to feel their mistakes at last and be held accountable for them. Perhaps not externally, but internally for sure.

A sign you have forgiven, is sorrow. Sorrow is often waiting under rage, and under sorrow, fear. Psychology says to let yourself out of emotional prison, and that is what anger has been for you, hasn’t it?

The art of forgiveness can take years off us. It can, and will be your rebirth my sweet. It will be the dawning of a new you. You have reframed your enemy, and transformed your rage into nectar. and now you are like god. You are capable of compassion, and have learned so much. You should be proud.

In forgiving another, you have also forgiven yourself, and it’s there that you’ve grown the most. You understand now, that everything springs from you, and that you are a creator.

You are creating exactly what you need, and you should be gentle with yourself for that. You have come so far and learned the art of forgiveness. You are worthy.

Further Reading

An article on psychologist Robert Enright’s process
The Four Stages of Forgiveness, from the chapter ‘Marking Territories: The Boundaries of Rage and Forgiveness’, Pg 370, from Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Image Sources:
“The Prodigal Son and his Mother,“ pastel on paper by Charlie Mackesy.
Image by prettysleepy1
Image by Digital Designer

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