One of the most difficult burdens that weigh heavily on our clients is being weighed down by bitterness and grudges, as they continue to torment themselves by the sense that they have been wronged. Sometimes they see the tormenter as no one other than themselves, and they get emotionally paralyzed by self-blame and guilt, crippling self-esteem and limiting optimism about the future. Forgiveness for the wrongs committed by self and others are one of the primary obstacles in treatment, and an important skill to help clients learn. Help your clients learn about the healing power of forgiveness with these main points and the following quick quiz.  All too often our clients have misperceptions of what forgiveness is and is not, and here are some points to help them release themselves from the chains of bitterness. 

TIP #1: Forgiveness is not about condoning behavior – it is about accepting that regretful things happened, and not letting one’s life be defined by the past which can not be changed.

TIP #2  Forgiveness is less about the the transgressor and more about the person who harbors the resentment. It’s about the negativity that keep reverberating in one’s head, many times long after the perceived transgressions.

TIP #3  In the case of not forgiving others, help clients see that even if the other person does not deserve their forgiveness, they do. They no longer need to be defined by the transgressions of others.

TIP #4  Being unforgiving makes it hard to find gratefulness in everyday life, and gratefulness is one of the keys to a positive and emotionally healthy life.

TIP #5   Forgiving others – and yourself – for not having the foresight to know which might be now so obvious in hindsight, is the key to freedom from unhappiness, anger and bitterness.

TIP #6   Forgiveness opens your heart to healing, instead of keeping it closed and self-protective.

TIP #7  Forgiveness does not mean going back for more.  Setting limits with others is important so you won’t be hurt again – even to the point of ending a toxic relationship.

TIP #8  In the case of self-blame, learn from the mistakes, make amends if others were hurt, and move on wiser than before. In essence, learn from the past, don’t live in it. Forgive yourself for not being healthier “back then.”

TIP #9  You can transform unproductive regret to productive regret when staying stuck in self-blame. In productive regret, you build on lessons learned from the past and make new choices now.

TIP #10  Helping your clients forgive will help them shift from why to what’s next?  Only by moving forward, bruised but wiser, will our clients be able to live life fully TODAY.

By imparting some perspective to your clients on the importance of forgiveness with these quick tips, reinforced by this quick quiz to test their “Forgiveness IQ” , you can help them live life more mindfully without focusing on how the past should have been different.  To quote comedian Lily Tomlin,  “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”