~Clarissa Pinkola Estes~
In Overcoming trauma & Finding Happiness Through Forgiveness Part 1, you learned that the post was inspired by a question from a friend. “What makes you the most happy?”
My one word response of “forgiveness” elicited a request from my friend to elaborate. In part 1 I explained what forgiveness was not. To understand this post better, you may want to read that post first. Just to quickly recap:
- Forgiveness is NOT forgetting the offense
- Forgiveness is NOT a one time event
- Forgiveness does NOT = reconciliation
- Not forgiving someone actually hurts you more than it hurts the offender.
But what IS forgiveness?
There are a couple of great resources I have found have helped me to understand forgiveness. One book is called, Forgiveness is a Choice. The other is, Forgive for good. I recommend both books but I really connected with Robert Enright’s Forgiveness is a Choice. In this book Dr. Enright talks about his scientific research that lead to his discovery of the 4 phases of forgiveness. These four phases or steps ARE forgiveness, because as I mentioned in Part 1, forgiveness is not a one time event. Just like Love and Faith, Forgiveness is an verb, it requires…..ACTION! Here are Enright’s four phases of Forgiveness.
Phase 1 – Uncovering your anger
Phase 2 – Deciding to forgive
Phase 3 – Working on forgiveness
Phase 4 – Discovery and release from emotional prison
The four phases of anger are great, but how does forgiveness equate to happiness?
Taking actions to do the emotional work that is needed to navigate through the four phases of forgiveness is literally what leads to happiness. The last phase is the key. Discovery and release from emotional prison.
I don’t know if you have ever been in prison, but I bet you know what it feels like to be isolated by your painful experiences, and the dread, anxiety or even anger when you have to interact with the offender on a regular basis. I can also guess that when the person you need to forgive is yourself, that you have felt the heaviness of shame and guilt for your real or perceived wrong doings.
A life free from emotional prison, free of the consuming heat of anger,free of compulsive and obtrusive anxious thoughts, and free from the sting of shame and weight of guilt, is a life with more room for joy.
Now, I don’t know what your definition of happiness is, but I do know that happiness to me is a free life, a peaceful life, a content life. When I forgive I make peace with the pain, peace with myself, peace with others, and peace with God. It also means that I am living as well as I can, loving as much as I can, and laughing more often than not.
I pray with all my heart that the happiness you seek may be found. And I know with all my heart, that if your life right now is full of pain, the key to overcoming the pain and finding joy and happiness again is to forgive.
I love you! And if you love this stuff….please share!