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Excerpt
The following is an excerpt from the book Unstoppable Women: Achieve Any Breakthrough Goal in 30 Days
by Cynthia Kersey
Published by Rodale; April 2005; $15.95US/$22.95CAN; 1-59486-104-8
Copyright 2005 Cynthia Kersey

The Four Stages of Becoming a Forgiving Person
In his book Forgive for Good, Dr. Luskin says that the ability to forgive is a skill that once developed can be drawn on in any situation. He suggests that there are four stages to becoming a forgiving person.

Stage One: We experience a loss or betrayal and are filled with hurt and anger. We blame the person who wronged us as the cause of our pain. At this point, we're not considering that we have a choice about how to respond. We're just feeling wounded by the offense.

Example: You're angry that your business partner wants to dissolve your partnership for reasons you don't feel are justified. You feel angry and blameless in the situation. You tell others how you were wronged and how poorly your partner handled things.

Stage Two: After a period of being upset, we begin to see how our anger isn't serving us in our lives and relationships, so we take steps to see things from a different point of view. We may try to see the experience from the other person's perspective or simply minimize the importance of the situation.

Example: After calming down, you talk with your partner in an effort to understand her perspective. You realize that if the business isn't working for her, she has every right to take a different path. You're now able to appreciate your partner for what she has brought to your business and value the friendship you have developed.

Stage Three: We have experienced the power of forgiveness and choose to quickly let go of grievances. We reflect on past encounters of forgiveness and the peace and joy we experienced. When we notice grievances forming, we quickly challenge the "story" we attach to the situation. We realize that the extent and duration of our pain is largely up to us. We can choose to minimize the time we are upset and how quickly we move forward.

Example: Instead of taking your business partner's decision personally, you recognize that she is human, with the same needs as you. Understanding the power of forgiveness in a relationship, you quickly choose to move forward and not stay in "hurt feelings" mode. You both become less attached to "being right" or to your interpretation of what this event meant.

Stage Four: Dr. Luskin believes this is the most difficult yet the most powerful stage, and I agree. This is where we operate from a place of forgiveness in our daily lives. We take things less personally. We know we are responsible for how we feel and rarely take offense. We don't condone unkindness, nor are we doormats. But we understand that people are not perfect, and that this means they will hurt us at times. We understand that we also are not perfect and that everyone, including ourselves, operates primarily out of personal self-interest. How, then, could we not offer forgiveness to others, for behaving at times in selfish ways?

Disappointments and wounds occur in all relationships, including long-term stable marriages, loving families, and great friendships. In Stage Four, we understand that hurt and conflict in relationships are common occurrences. We strive to make peace. We give others the benefit of the doubt. We understand the healing power of forgiveness and actively choose to forgive on a daily basis.

Who do you need to forgive? 
Make a list of the people in your life toward whom you feel anger and resentment. While it may be difficult at first, acknowledge that anger and
resentment are holding you back from fully living, loving, and creating an unstoppable life. Look at your list and identify at what stage of practicing forgiveness you are with each person. Make a decision to move past your anger and let your grievance go. You do this not for them, but for yourself, demonstrating the ultimate act of self-love. I am not suggesting that this is easy or that it will happen overnight. But, make the decision today to start the process. As you begin to practice forgiveness as a way of life, you can invest your energies into solving problems, rather than taking offense and playing the role of a victim.

Of course, sometimes the person we most need to forgive is ourselves. There comes a time when we're disappointed in ourselves for not honoring our commitments, for not being "perfect." When we feel this way, it's vital that we forgive ourselves, commit to doing better in the future, and move on. Nothing productive ever comes from self-hatred and condemnation.

Make a list of areas where you're judging yourself. What do you need to forgive yourself for? Practice the four stages of forgiveness on yourself.

If you find yourself getting "stuck" in anger and having a hard time forgiving yourself or someone else, try the following tips:

  • Speak with people who have forgiven others and think about what you can learn from their stories.
  • Read books about forgiveness to learn how others have forgiven in difficult situations.
  • Recall times that you have hurt others and needed forgiveness.
  • Write a forgiveness letter to yourself or to someone you need to forgive.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude for your life.
  • Ask yourself, "Who would I be without this resentment or anger?"
  • Practice forgiving for one minute at a time. Becoming a forgiving person is a habit we can develop, so start with the little annoyances in life.

For example, imagine you're at the grocery store, in the express checkout lane. The lane is supposed to be limited to customers with 10 items or less, but there's someone ahead of you with 15 items. Notice your thoughts and judgments about this person and the feelings they produce. You could be annoyed that this person isn't following the rules and is slowing down the "express" lane, you could complain to the person behind you about the selfishness of this customer's behavior, or you could stop and use this circumstance as an opportunity to forgive. If you have trouble letting it go, recall a time when you didn't follow the rules or perhaps acted in a selfish manner. That gets me every time. Many times we judge others for the very things we've done in the past.

Reprinted from: Unstoppable Women: Achieve any Breakthrough Goal in 30 Days by Cynthia Kersey 2005 Cynthia Kersey. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com