In Parts 1 and 2 of this blog series on forgiveness, we explored both the benefits as well as struggles of forgiving based on The Book of Forgiving by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu. We also provided a framework on the fourfold path of forgiveness, and in this blog post we will break down what to expect in the first step.
The First Step: Tell The Story
In order to begin the healing process, the authors describe the need for detailing the events of the situation needing forgiveness: the good, the bad, and the ugly. By narrating the story, we begin to make meaning of the suffering that has occurred.
The authors provide a variety of ways to tell the story of the hurt: 1) Write out the entire story in a journal entry or a letter to yourself; 2) Tell the story to a trusted friend or family member; 3) Write a letter to the perpetrator (the letter does not need to be sent if not safe to do so).
Work through discomfort
You might ask: “What’s the point of reliving the past? I can’t do anything about it now.” We can use the following metaphor as a response: If you injured your knee in 1992, you of course can’t go back and change the event resulting in the injury. However, you can tend to the current aches caused by the injury by working through the discomfort in physical therapy. Although addressing the wound will be painful in the present moment, the uncomfortable effort will pay off in the long run by allowing you to now participate in activities that feel meaningful. The pain of the past no longer has to control you if you’re willing to face it.
Telling the story allows you to begin to accept that although the past cannot be changed, the process of meaning-making can transform your present reality.
The authors offer the following meditation to begin the process:
To whom shall I tell my story?
Who will hear my truth
Who can open the space that my words want to fill
Who will hold open the space for the words that tumble out in fast cutting shards
And the words that stumble hesitantly into the world unsure of their welcome
Can you hold that space open for me?
Can you keep your questions and suggestions and judgments at bay
Can you wait with me for the truths that stay hidden behind my sadness,
my fear, my forgetting, and my pain
Can you just hold open a space for me to tell my story
In part 4 of this blog series, we will explore how to implement the second of the four steps of forgiving: Naming the hurt.