The Art of Forgiveness

Recovering from any kind of betrayal is never easy. When it comes to forgiving her husband for his affair, iVillager J wonders: "Am I letting him get off too easy? Should I be making him suffer more? I'm very torn about where mercy and being a doormat differ." And she's certainly not alone. No matter what the issue once was, forgiveness is always a difficult -- but real -- part of relationships. And knowing where to start is often the hardest part.

Many people think that they must just let go of the past to move on. Along with causing grief and trepidation, that approach limits personal growth. Plus, memories and traces of the past are always with us -- for some as wounds, for others as treasures. But, when we try to block out the past from our lives, it resurfaces at the oddest times: Old patterns return as unfinished lessons yet to be learned.

Rather than hate a period of our life, the person we "used to be" or people we've met along the way, learn to find the way each experience helped us become strong. When we take this approach our entire life opens up and we begin to build bridges naturally. Then, each person we meet -- whether we like them or not -- becomes another bridge, a new way to deepen the love and understanding we become capable of.

The most important bridges are the ones that allow us to forgive another, to make peace with the pain we've suffered, and to allow resentment and judgment to subside. How can we forgive?

  • Find a new way to understand what happened and take responsibility for our part.

Next Page: 4 More Steps to Forgiveness

  • Understand that each person gave us what they could at that time.
  • Recognize that our expectations and demands of them are what cause our present pain.
  • Give up judging, rejecting or criticizing others: Stop labeling people as good or bad.
  • Take a critical look our own expectations and realize that we can never hope to have them all met by one person or another.

When our own loving hearts are fully developed, we can fulfill our own expectations and whatever else we are yearning for. Only after we've forgiven are we free to let new people and experiences into our world. Only then are we free to truly live in the present.

More expert advice for your relationship problems:

Do you have a question for the Relationship Saver? Join Dr. Shoshanna on the Relationship Saver message board and bi-monthly chat (every other Monday at 8pm ET).

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