The Hard Work of Forgiveness (part 2)

forgivenessIn my previous post on the Hard Work of Forgiveness I discussed how someone’s PROXIMITY to us and their POWER over us impacts our ability to forgive, the timeline on which we can forgive and whether we need help in taking that forgiveness journey.

Before I continue with the remaining P’s of Forgiveness, let me explain the purpose of these “p-value” categories, or aspects.

For anyone struggling to forgive and move on after something painful, one of the most frustrating things to endure is the back and forth of “I’ve forgiven,..” just to be smacked in the face with some memory or feeling that sends us reeling to the other extreme, “How COULD they?!?

These P’s of Forgiveness are a way to identify areas where you need to focus your healing energies, and whether you need to engage a licensed practitioner (or prayer partner), minister or therapist to help you process, achieve some closure and move on.

The system is simple: each P represents an aspect of the issue we need to forgive. We examine these aspects and assign a score for each. (1) for those aspects which are minimally relevant; (2) for those that are moderately relevant and (3) for the significant aspects of the forgiveness challenge with which you are wrangling. I use a simple table design like this (you can do it on paper or in Excel).


Here are a couple examples: for PROXIMITY, a score of (1) may be a previous boss, or manager; a relative stranger whom you’ll likely not encounter again, or someone you can avoid. A score of (3) on PROXIMITY could be a spouse, neighbor, or co-worker that you are confined to working with, at least for now. Similarly a parent or a boss/manager may have a lot of POWER (3) while a neighbor may have moderate POWER (2) if there are legal issues or a neighborhood association involved, or very little (1) if they have a limited ability to impact your life (other than making you mad).

I explained the 1st two in my previous post on The Hard Work of Forgiveness; now here are the remaining P’s

PERSONAL INVESTMENT: how invested in the relationship with the person are/were you? Is this relationship one that will create an extreme change in your life when it ends or will this simply become a story you tell a few years later (“Remember when I went to that crazy church?“).

A spouse/marriage is probably a (3) in terms of PERSONAL INVESTMENT although every situation and circumstance will differ. A book club will likely score much lower (you can always find another one!)

POSITION: this aspect refers to the position or standing someone has in the community or culture. A coach who hits a player in Little League is harder to forgive than a teenager who hits one of his little brothers friends. A random person who runs a low-level Ponzi scheme irritates people but a minister who misappropriates money from the offering plate is subject to major scorn. As a society, we expect certain behaviors from people in positions of respect. If the person(s) you need to forgive “should have known better” or should have recognized their responsibility to do the right thing, score this as a (3).

PREMEDITATION: someone who intentionally plays you is much harder to forgive than the person who takes advantage of you incidentally. One of my friends is single and describes how aggravated she gets when guys ask to hang out with her and pretend to be interested,….just to get close to her friends. These are situations where there was a plan, and you were used. These circumstances rank higher on the scale than the opportunist who was perhaps too lazy to plan ahead, but took the opportunity when it arose.

PROFITING: for this example I like to use the Enron scandal. Not only did the C-suite at Enron knowingly ruin (financially) their employees’ (and others’) lives, but they did so while stashing away millions in personal profits. It’s one thing to lose your job and your retirement savings because the senior executives were incompetent, but it’s a whole other issue when they laugh all the way to a bank in the Cayman Islands.

PENITENCE: for this aspect, you will want to use the LOW number to indicate a higher level of penitence while the (3) is reserved for those who not only aren’t sorry – but they’d move to another city, set up shop and do it all again in a skinny minute.

Once you assess your particular situation in each category, or aspect; add up your scores. In my opinion, scores between 15 and 21 indicate that you will benefit from the perspective and some time with an objective 3rd party. This is NOT one of your sympathetic friends or another person who is angry about the same issue. This means find a counselor, therapist or other person who can work with you to neutralize your anger, and move on.

If your score falls between 8 and 14, you’re in the middle range. You may be able to work this out with some self-help techniques, prayer work and reading a lot about forgiveness. Pay attention to the particular aspects where you scored (3)’s. Direct your inner work to these specific areas; look hard at what might cause someone to act in such a way and leave yourself some time for the answers to come. It is important, however that you don’t exclude the option of engaging an objective 3rd party. Even a single session with someone who’s not invested in the drama of the issue can help steer you in a new direction.

For those with total scores at less than 8, you’re probably going to be OK working through this on your own, but pay attention to repeating themes. You will also want to evaluate any individual aspects with a higher score.

While working on forgiveness, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. It’s common to be critical of yourself during this process, especially if occasional bouts of anger and resentment resurface. These cycles are normal, though and you need to remember that forgiveness is hard work; a process and a journey. Your destination is a peace you will achieve when you release this heaviness from your heart.

Allow yourself to be human, and when you stumble; get up, dust yourself off and get back at it. It’s worth it in the end, because it’s really all about you.

Forgiveness statement

I wish you peace & blessings along your way…


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