In Part 3 of this blog series on forgiveness, we explored the first of the four steps of forgiveness based on The Book of Forgiving by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu. In this post, we will explore the second step in extending forgiveness and finding closure.
The Second Step: Naming the Hurt
After completing the first step of telling the story of the hurt, the authors recommend “naming the hurt”. Whereas telling the story explores the technical details of the story—who was involved, when it occurred, etc.—this step involves facing the feelings associated with the situation.
When we have been wronged, we will naturally feel a combination of emotions: anger, fear, sadness, shame, and guilt, to name a few. These emotions are messages from our bodies letting us know our needs and desires. If we can name these emotions and let ourselves move through them, we can have control over the pain instead of letting the emotions control our behaviors.
In a society motivated by logic and reason, we may have difficulty identifying our emotions and sharing them with someone we trust. Many resources exist to help individuals identify their emotions, but a helpful place to start is to scan your body for any sensations and to use an emotions wheel to help clarify what you may be feeling. And always remember: Emotions are temporary, valid, real, and not necessarily factual.
Once you have identified the emotions you feel about the situation needing forgiveness, the authors recommend sharing how you feel with someone you trust. Options for this could be a family member, a therapist, a friend, a support group, or a spiritual figure.
The authors offer the following journaling prompt to explore and metabolize the emotions associated with the story:
1. Write down all the things you have lost related to the situation when you have been hurt. What did you lose? Did you lose your trust? Did you lose your safety? Did you lose your dignity? Did you lose someone whom you loved? Did you lose something that you cherished?
2. Now name the feelings that accompany these losses. I am angry. I am sad. I am heartbroken. I am afraid. Feel free to use your own words. What does your heart tell you? What is the weight of this loss?
Name it so you can heal it.
In part 5 of this blog series, we will explore how to implement the third of the four steps of forgiving: Granting forgiveness.