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The Art of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a critical element in becoming self actualized and fully loving. Forgiving is the process by which you let go of feeling victimized or having wronged others. It allows you to climb out of the dark well of anger, bitterness, or guilt into which you can easily fall.

In a busy life, you are frequently confronted with opportunities to forgive others as well as yourself. With others, you cope with mild frustrations like the delivery person who shows up late, or with more severe transgressions like the friend who tells your secrets. With these events, forgiving is hindered if the behavior violates your basic sense of what is "right" or fair, or how you think people "should" behave. When someone wrongs you, your anger can be empowering as you prepare to defend your principles and "fight the good fight." Or, you may believe that forgiveness is possible only if the other person admits to the wrongdoing. All of these attitudes are unhealthy when rigidly maintaining your anger and sense of victimization.

It is also frequently necessary to forgive yourself, since you regularly evaluate your own behaviors, some of which may not meet your own standards Forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving others if you tend to judge yourself more harshly than others with a perfectionist style that doesn't permit mistakes. You may pride yourself on high standards for your own conduct. Or, you may believe that only God has the right to forgive you. These beliefs encourage poor self-esteem and the corrosive effects of guilt.

In Stepping Stones: 10 Steps to Seizing Passion and Purpose, the process of forgiving is described as APEX healing. It begins with Acknowledging the reality of the situation without distortion or denial. Then, you give yourself Permission to feel whatever is real and congruent with your thoughts about the event and the person responsible. Label your specific feelings and their actual intensity; don't label yourself as upset or irritated when you're really angry. Whenever possible try to Empathize with the person who committed the transgression; put yourself in their position and imagine how you might have done something similar. If you are considering self-forgiveness, remember what was going on with you at the time of the incident, not merely in hindsight. Ultimately, you can explore strategies for forgiveness.

To forgive others, you might consider the behavior as a one-time aberration; focus on the behavior, not the outcome; minimize the importance of the consequences; or minimize how much you think about the event. To forgive yourself, you can give yourself permission to make mistakes; promise yourself not to repeat the behavior; or vow to learn from the event. In some cases, it can be helpful to write a letter of forgiveness.

The process of forgiveness can last anywhere from a few seconds to years. It is the ultimate stress management solution in a civilization with a rapidly accelerating pace and increasingly complex lifestyle. It allows you to choose your paths, your present, and your future.

About The Author

Dr. Tim Sams is the author of Stepping Stones: 10 Steps to Seizing Passion and Purpose; the book is available through his web site: and at all online bookstores.

Dr. Sams is a University of Michigan graduate who interned at the Long Beach VA Medical Center. He is a diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management and the American College of Forensic Medicine. He originally trained as a medical and health psychologist with specialty training in behavioral medicine, the melding of medicine and psychology, mind and body. Though he had taken dozens of classes in biology, anatomy, and physiology, over time his clinical passion for alleviating physical pain blossomed and he obtained a Master's of Science with emphasis on the medical basis of orthopedic, neurologic, and myofascial pain. He is a frequent lecturer on pain management throughout the United States. He authored the most comprehensive patient pain manual scheduled for release in June, 2005. He writes a free, biweekly newsletter called Advances in Medicine that you can sign up for on this website. Dr. Tim is a motivator and a teacher; a caring soul who believes that humor is one of the best weapons against pain; that and really good drugs.

Dr. Tim has multiple offices in Southern California, consulting to a few dozen pain physicians and hundreds of primary care physicians and orthopedic surgeons. He spends one day a week in his office educating patients at

He lives and plays in Orange County, California with his wife Lari and his daughter, Leah. He spends most of his non-family free time jogging, swimming, reading, or writing.

Copyright 2004. Dr. Tim Sams. All rights reserved.

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