Forgiveness as an act of foregoing revenge and resentment is personally challenging because it calls for a person to take responsibility for their lives and desist from blame (Chapman & Jennifer, 2008). Since forgiveness is not easy, many people still carry scars from the past. Forgiveness is the solution to healing these scars from the past that compromise the quality of life. The forgiveness process enables individuals to let go of bitterness, anger, negative memories, resentment, and blame towards either self or other people. Forgiving is a committed and deliberate act.
Enright’s Forgiveness Process Model
Robert Enright developed a four-stage forgiveness process model. Though he is a devout Christian, his model is purely psychological and not spiritual. Enright theorized that the forgiveness process has four major stages which build on each other. In the first stage, known as the uncovering phase, the person seeking to forgive analyses offensive experience and tries to reflect on how it has affected their life (Enright 2012). Nasty experiences often result in anger, frustration, and feelings of isolation. Chapman and Jennifer (2008) observe that people who have been hurt or betrayed and have not recovered from the damage tend to blame the offender for most of their shortcomings after that. They associate the offender with evil and tend to think that they have some influence on their lives
The second step is deciding to forgive, whereby a person, after understanding what forgiveness is, agrees to pursue it (Enright, 2012). Chapman (2007) further writes that forgiveness is a systematic process. A step builds on the previous step, and there cannot be a progression to the next level if issues in the preceding step are not entirely resolved. For example, if you have not fully decided to forgive, you cannot go ahead and work on forgiveness. Regarding the principles of forgiveness, one has to realize that the act must be voluntary and by choice and not coerced. If your friends or family are putting too much pressure on you to forgive, you end up not fully forgiving the offender. You will not develop the positive image of them that signifies total forgiveness.
The third stage, working on forgiveness, requires the individual to commit to forgive (Enright, 2012). Committing to forgiveness is not easy. Here, a person tries to change the perception of the bad situation and the offender. It entails digging deeper and trying to analyze the situation logically and without bias. Most often, a person ends up realizing that the offender was influenced by some external force to execute the hurtful experience and did not necessarily intend to harm or hurt (Chapman, 2007). It changes how the offender is perceived.
The final stage is deepening or foregoing of resentment. According to Enright (2012), in this stage, the person gets a renewed purpose in life after overcoming the adverse effects of the offense and its effects in life. After developing a positive perception of the offender, it becomes easier to change their feelings towards them. During the deepening stage, there is a likelihood of people who had cut contact and communication with their offenders, reconnecting with them and re-initiating communication. However, the offender also needs to forgive the offended if the hurt was mutual for the new relationship to blossom. According to Chapman and Jennifer (2008), during this deepening stage, the negative feelings, pain, anger, and hatred disappear and are replaced by happiness. The offender is not viewed as an evil person as it used to be but are seen as normal human beings. This stage is characterized by positivity and a new purpose in life.
My Hurtful Experience
Intimacy and love are major sources of hurt. Many people often end up getting hurt and offended when love affairs turn sour. I have been a victim of pain coming from infidelity in a love affair. When I was still in high school, I got into my first love affair. I loved my partner so much; I could not picture my life without them. Having grown together and known each other since we were children, I trusted the girl with my life. I never thought she would even think about doing something to hurt me. Three years down our relationship, we had to go to college. I was to attend a college in a different state for the next three years. It meant that we would be seeing each other during holidays. It was a difficult moment for us. It was evident that we would not always be together; we had to resort to interacting on the phone and over the internet, a fact we both dreaded.
Everything was fine initially; we did just fine, communicating on the phone and over social media. We spent most of our time chatting and exchanging photos. Mutual promises about loving each other till the end of life were always part of our conversations. However, after five months, things took an unexpected turn. My “lover” changed drastically. She had no time for our chats and always claimed to be busy and occupied. At first, I felt sorry for her and hoped that she would do just fine, but when the trend persisted, I knew something was wrong. She completely stopped picking my calls and blocked me on social media. I decided to enquire from friends and upon calling our long time mutual friend, he confirmed that Liz, my lover, had found herself a new boyfriend.
At first, I thought Mike (our friend) was playing with me but when I contacted Liz through her mom’s cell for confirmation, she told me that a long distance relationship was not her thing, and she had decided to break up with me. That news was devastating. It shattered all my hopes of marrying Liz. I cried and felt sad about the world and her and myself. I pondered about quitting college, but I then realized that this would not do me any good for because she already had a new boyfriend. The damage was already done, and my heart was in pieces.
I have not forgiven Liz for wasting my time and feelings. Every time I think about her, I feel sorry for myself, and about the whole idea of having a girlfriend. The breakup was so painful it completely swept away my urge to love and be loved again. It is something I am yet to recover from. I am willing to forgive her and moving on though it is not easy.
Application of Enright’s Forgiveness Model into My Case
If I were to forgive Liz, I would adopt Enright’s forgiveness model. It provides a systematic approach that I can use to overcome the negative feelings, hurt, and pain I still have embedded in my heart. Forgiving completely is not easy. It entails a person giving up the anger to which they are entitled and giving the offender the valuable gift of mercy that they are not entitled to. Depending on the nature and intensity of the harm caused by the action of the offender, the process of forgiving may be long and challenging (Chapman, 2007). One of the major drawbacks to forgiveness is a misunderstanding of the meaning of forgiveness and assuming that forgiving is merely saying that they have forgiven, yet deep inside they still retain the scars from the offense. When actual forgiving has occurred, all the scars are erased.
Step 1: Uncovering My Anger
According to Enright, the first step towards forgiving is uncovering the anger that the offended person has within them as a result of the offense (Enright, 2012). It is important that a person looks critically at the offense and the effects it has on their life. Gaining insight into how the offense and the resultant injury have compromised the quality of life is the first step towards forgiving. It is only possible to overcome anger emanating from an offense when the nature of that offense is well understood at first. According to Chapman (2007), confronting the impacts of this anger on one’s life creates the need for forgiving. In uncovering the anger resulting from the offense, one needs to reflect on who did what and how this is affecting the quality of their life.
In my case, the first question I need to ask myself is what offense was conducted and how is it affecting my quality of life. The offense was Liz betraying my feelings of love for her. The effects of this on my life have been many. First, it made my interactions with other ladies difficult. It has been difficult for me to approach other girls, and I do not feel man enough. The other negative effect of offense has been strained interactions with mutual friends. Since the breakup, I have been unable to talk to all the mutual friends I shared with Liz. My relation with her family members who were once my close family friends has become difficult. I prefer staying away from home due to feelings of shame.
The second question I need to ask myself is how I have been dealing with this anger. I have been dealing with this anger by putting a lot of effort in reading and studies. However, my social life has considerably been affected. I do not have enough time to interact with friends as I always pretend to be busy. The betrayal by my lover has numerous negative impacts on my life. Forgiveness will enable me to do away with these destructive effects. It will create an opportunity for me to be happy once more since my Liz seems satisfied with her life. She was not significantly affected by the breakup.
Step 2: Deciding to Forgive
This is the second phase of the forgiveness process. According to Enright (2012), the decision to forgive should be made after a person has gained a proper understanding of what forgiveness is and has seen it as the best option to resolving the anger they have about the offender. The decision to forgive should be entirely voluntary and not coerced. If a person is coerced or pushed to forgive, the emotional ties to the offense might not be broken. They will still suffer from the effects of the offense. Chapman and Jennifer (2008) further confirm that people trapped in unforgiveness at times find the will to forgive on the realization that failing to forgive and holding on to the negative feelings is a major contributor to their suffering.
I have realized that failing to forgive Liz for her decision to break up with me is the main reason I am still suffering from the breakup. Holding on to the belief that she decided to break up with me just to hurt me is not helping and might not be entirely accurate. Forgiving her is a good option. It will create an opportunity for us to talk once more and I can get to know why she took that bold step without telling me. Maybe it was not her wish to hurt me; she just decided to do away with the hurt that our distance relationship was causing her. Forgiveness will also create an opportunity for me to mend my relationship with friends who I have not been interacting effectively with. There are more benefits in forgiving her than there is to hold on to unforgiveness.
Step 3: Working on Forgiveness
The third step towards forgiveness is the actual forgiveness. Working on forgiveness as a step in the overall forgiveness process entails the offended person gaining more understanding of the offender and then starting to view them more positively. Starting to consider the other person positively changes the way the offended person feels about the offender (Enright, 2012). Seeing the other person positively may involve rethinking about the offensive situation and reframing one’s perception of the offender. After the offense has occurred, a person often views the offender as an evil person who is devoid of humanity. Compassion and realistic empathy towards the offender eventually push the offended person to give the offender the moral gift of forgiveness (Chapman & Jennifer, 2008). It is important to note that this phase should not be rushed and may take a long time to complete.
After I decide to forgive Liz, I need to commit to it and put effort to ensure that I completely overcome the negative feelings I have about her. I need to revisit the breakup and critically look at what caused it. Difficulties coping with a long distance relationship pushed Liz to call off the relationship. Having grown together since our childhood, it might not have been easy for her to live without seeing me. She might have been going through a lot of pain due to missing me. She needed someone who was there for her all the time. Maybe this pain and suffering were affecting other aspects of her life such as education.
She might have decided to find someone else who would always be close to her. She might not have had the intentions of hurting me. Maybe she felt that telling me the truth would hurt me more. If I were her, I would have done the same thing. I could not hold on to a love relationship that was causing me more harm than good. I should stop viewing Liz negatively as an evil person who intentionally hurt me and start seeing her as a person forced by circumstances to act the way she did. It will enable me to forgive her and change the way I perceive her.
Step 4: Deepening/Foregoing of the Resentment.
In this phase, the efforts put in the previous stages towards forgiveness bear fruit. A person finds meaning in forgiveness and is finally emancipated from the bonds of non-forgiveness. Additionally, they become more connected with others and starts experiencing decreased negative effects associated with the offense (Enright, 2012).The person is set free from the bondage of bitterness, resentment, and anger. Their attitude towards the offender completely change, and they view the person differently. The person who has been struggling with suffering now finds a new purpose in life. They at times may regret having suffered unjustly. They realize that forgiveness would have been saved them a great deal of pain if it had come earlier. According to Chapman (2007), in this case, they may try to reconnect with the offender, and try to seek forgiveness from them if they feel that they offended them as well.
In this phase where I will be foregoing resentment, I will realize that the decision to forgive Liz is justified. I will most likely contact her and express my apologies for the way I acted and talked to her after the situation. I will tell her that I have completely forgiven her and that I am now okay with whatever happened. I should go ahead to tell them that their actions were justified for most probably the long distance relationship was causing them a lot of suffering. I will also talk to my friends and family members and inform them about my decision to forgive Liz. It will enable me to rebuild my relationship with them. After I am completely healed, I can then proceed to find myself a new girlfriend.
I am optimistic that she will accept my forgiveness since she had previously asked for my forgiveness on several occasions, but I objected. I will also request a meeting so that we can talk and clear the uneasiness and hostility that has prevailed between us since the breakup. This way, I will have completely healed my scars, and found a new purpose in life.
In conclusion, forgiving is not easy. It is a complicated process that can take years to plan and to execute. The four phases of the forgiveness process model theorized by Enright are a great resource that can help people forgive and ultimately overcome the suffering they have been going through. I intend to adopt the model and forgive my girlfriend who I broke up with a while ago, and move on with life. Forgiving her will enable me to overcome the suffering I have been going through. It will finally allow me to have a social life and another girlfriend.
Chapman, G. (2007). Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Chapman, G. & Thomas, J. (2008). The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Enright, R. (2012). The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.