Reconciliation – Step 3.1

If you choose to reconcile with someone who hurt you, there is a process that works. Reconciling without thinking through a valid process may lead to more hurt if the same things happen again. Maybe worse than last time.

Though no process guarantees success, and there is always an element of risk in reconciliation, there is a six step process that can help healing occur faster and help prevent relapses. In “part 1 – decide whether to reconcile” and “part 2 – softness”, we explained the first two steps. Now for the third.

Everett Worthington, Jr. PhD, created the model we use for step three. He calls it the Forgiveness Pyramid, though I’ve been unable to find it drawn or displayed in pyramid form. It consists of five things to do that leads to true forgiveness that leads to reconciliation.

Step Three – Forgive

It may appear redundant to return to the subject of forgiveness after writing four blogs about it, but actually it makes a great deal of sense.  Once a person has decided that s/he wishes to reconcile (using the decision criteria given in that blog), and is willing to soften the interactions with the offender (as explained in that blog), forgiveness now moves to specific actions that lead to a change of emotions. Negativity can be turned into positivity. Feelings of hurt and anger can transform into feelings of love and affection. Of course, this does not happen overnight – at least in most cases – and likely should be doubted if it does occur too rapidly. We call it hurt because it does just that; hurts. Just as the pain of physical injury takes time to subside during the healing process, so does the pain of emotional, mental, or spiritual injury.

Worthington developed a model he calls the Forgiveness Pyramid that is best remembered by the acronym REACH. The five elements are:

  1. Recall the hurt
  2. Empathize
  3. Altruistic gift of forgiveness
  4. Commit to forgive
  5. Hold on to forgiveness

Recall the Hurt

Many times the offender wants the offended to forgive and move on without talking about what happened. You can understand their motivation. “I hurt you. I don’t want the pain of talking about how I hurt you. I don’t know that I can explain, and as we talk I may hurt you even more. Let’s just say it’s over and move on.” However, THAT does not work well. Whether the offender can explain adequately or not, the offended needs to be able to ask questions. Painful answers are better than no answers. No answers, deceitful answers, or avoidance answers keep trust from rebuilding. Honest answers give a strong message, “I did wrong. I hurt you. Now I’m going to trust you with all the truth and hope with all my heart that you don’t reject me. My honest ‘confession’ is my heart reaching out to yours in true penitence and pain. It shows you how badly I want you to forgive me and not end our relationship.”

As the offended explains or answers questions, s/he must NOT appear to justify what occurred. Anything that sounds as if the offender had a right to do what s/he did is going to do much more damage than good. “I use porn because you’re a bad lover” or “I lied because you lied to me first” or anything similar is bad, bad. bad. Honest explanation takes responsibility for one’s own actions. It offers NO blame to anyone else. Not even, “My friends talked me into it” or “he came after me and I didn’t know how to handle the attention.” During explanation or answers avoid words such as he, she, they, them, you, your, and instead use the I word exclusively. “I let myself be influenced” or “I find the porn addictive” or “I lied and there is no justification for my lying” are the kinds of honesty that leads to healing. Don’t worry at this point about the offended’s actions that may have helped the bad thing(s) occur. Take responsibility for your own actions.

Next blog: Reconciliation – part 3.2, Empathize

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