My Personal Journey Through Forgiveness

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.

My 2012 goal is to engage in the process of forgiveness, specifically with certain family members.  It’s not something that involves their cooperation because I have no intention of reconciling with them.  I’m doing it for myself; a personal challenge of sorts, to see if A) forgiveness is attainable, and B) to discover whether forgiveness has any effect on my overall levels of happiness.  I’m a pretty happy person to begin with ~ one of those lucky folks who is hardwired to be an optimist.  Truth be known, I’m sort of guinea pigging myself through this process so that I can have first hand experience with this thing called forgiveness and facilitate it for clients in the event that I find it useful.

I had no idea how to begin this process back in January when I took on this challenge.  I measured my levels of forgiveness at the beginning (linked to here and not surprisingly, my scores indicate that I’m not the most forgiving person) and I’ll measure them again when I’ve finished this process.  And in the meantime, I thought I’d update you on this crazy journey of mine.

So I bought this book called Forgiveness Is a Choice by Robert D. Enright, and I lucked out because it’s good.  The book is taking me through a step-by-step process of engaging in writing exercises as a means to process my various levels of anger, shame, and guilt, all of which, apparently, reside in people who fancy themselves ‘wronged’ by someone. I was required to identify 1 particular ‘Offender,’ or an ‘Offensive Act,’ (mine should have acts 1-100), which I’ve done, and then it dove into some pretty heavy Q&A’s (he asks the Q’s and I provide the A’s) that brought me face-to-face with the what the absence of forgiveness has resulted in.

Basically, I’ve been pretty fucking miserable (unbeknownst to me) in the absence of forgiveness.  And I have to tell you, this process of forgiveness has been, uh, unpleasant, to say the least.  I had to identify a forgiveness companion (I have no words to express my thoughts on this ridiculous term) who is responsible for reading my writing assignments and weighing in on whether or not she feels I’m being completely honest about my role in the ‘Offensive Act(s).’  Not surprisingly, I chose my wife because hell, we’re getting along beautifully these days and I figured why not throw another challenge into the mix?

Yesterday I hit a tipping point:  I made it through the dark side of this book.  I’ve successfully described all the negativity, I’ve rehashed my pain, my anger and every last detail of the injustice, and I’ve now entered the chapter called Beginning to Forgive.  I’m at page 131 of 275.  I believe the worst is now behind me.  I have to tell you:  If I didn’t need to forgive before – I sure as hell do now. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s the point.