The FIVE Essential Steps in a Forgiveness Process
The forgiveness process can be a complicated and often difficult one.  There are many ideas about the whys, and whens, and hows, but the one thing that most people agree on…  Forgiveness is essential for healing.  I have spent a lot of time considering the most important components of the process, and I have broken them down into FIVE steps for our consideration.
STEP ONE:  BE CLEAR ABOUT THE OFFENSE
We each need to spend the time necessary to clearly identify the details of the offense against us.  Who caused the pain?  Was the pain intentional?  What were the short and long term implications of the offense?  What emotions do we still have about the offense?  Is there anything we can do to change the impact in the here and now?
STEP TWO: MAKE A CHOICE
Engaging in a forgiveness process is a lot about making the choice to do so.  This is not a choice that should be make flippantly nor is it a choice that we should make to appease someone else.  Forgiving someone who has hurt us (possible very deeply) is a serious decision, and it should be made with care.
STEP THREE: CREATE A PLAN
Once we have made the choice to engage in a forgiveness process, we must formulate a plan.  How will we approach this difficult task?  Will we need the help of others?  Will we confront our offenders?  Some people choose to address their offenders directly (either by a letter or phone call or face-to-face confrontation).  Some people choose a more indirect route (working through emotions with a pastor or counselor).  There are many different routes available on this journey.  We must take the time to carefully choose the route that will be most conducive to our individual needs, personalities, and current life circumstances.
STEP FOUR: DO SOMETHING
After we formulate a plan for forgiveness, it is time to implement that plan.  It is time for us to take the steps necessary to confront our pain and pursue our healing.  Whether we choose to confront directly or to seek counseling support, it is time to actively move in the direction of resolution.
Please note:  This timeframe will be different for each person.  Do not rush your process.  Spend as much time in this part of the process as you need to in order to be able to really move forward.
STEP FIVE: MOVE FORWARD
Once you have completed your unique forgiveness process, it is time to move forward with your life.  While I have come to believe that we never fully forget the pains we have sustained, I completely believe that we can live free from the bitterness that has kept us stuck… And that pain grows fainter with time (especially if we are addressing issues in a healthy and assertive way).