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Forgiveness- A Helpful and Healing Skill

Many of us have heard the phrase, “Failing to forgive is like taking rat poison and expecting the other person to die.” While we may recognize how damaging unforgiveness is to our own hearts, we do not often make the effort to actually forgive. Why? We may not be ready. There may be safety issues going on that need to be addressed first. We may not truly know how to forgive.

Forgiveness is not always as easy as “1, 2, 3,” but here are some very helpful steps from our “Ready for Love” material* to get on the road to forgiveness and healing:

1) Recognize the need to forgive (or be forgiven).

  • Notice ongoing feelings of resentment or anger.
  • Recognize an action as offensive.

2) Create safety.

  • This involves physical safety, psychological safety, and relational safety.
  • Seek help if you recognize that you do not feel safe. This may include a third party, a cooling-off period, or even physical separation.

3) Fire the attorney in your head.

  • Choose to stop “pleading your case” to yourself so that you can let go of defensiveness and blaming.

4) Talk about what happened.

  • Talk about the event.
  • Talk about your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires (what was it like for you?).
  • Receive empathy.
  • Try to see the situation from the others’ perspective.

5) Choose to say, “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.”

  • Be deliberate about making the choice to speak those words.
  • Take responsibility for choices you made, then and now.
  • Find or create a support network (friends, family, or faith community).
  • Release negative feelings and move on.

6) Choose to act in loving ways.

  • Stop reminding the offender of the hurt.
  • If the other person is not safe to be around, act in loving ways towards yourself or others not involved.
  • Use a pleasant voice.
  • Seek the good of the other.

Contemporary research shows that forgiveness occurs when people commit to owning and expressing feelings, choose to forgive, and commit to actions of love.  Forgiveness and healing can take TIME, and it can be a process of forgiving and then choosing to continue to forgive. It does not necessarily mean forgetting. It does not mean agreement. It is a choice to let go of the poison.

If you know of situation in which you need help forgiving someone or finding forgiveness, contact our counselors who would love to help you.


*Ready for Love is written by Bernard Gurney, Jr., PhD and Mary Ortwein, MS, LMFT. Ready for Love is part of the Relationship Enhancement (r) Series used by IDEALS therapists.

Marriage Like Mayonnaise? Sure!

     Marriage is actually a lot like mayonnaise.  To make mayonnaise, one begins with oil and acid- two substances that don’t naturally mix.  Marriage is similar. It is often the core differences, what one sees in their partner that they don’t see in themselves, that first attracts them to each other and later causes them distress. Regardless of how hard one tries, oil and acid just won’t stay together until just one egg yoke is added.  One egg yoke contains lecithin, a molecule that has one end that can bond with oil and one end that can bond with an acid.
     Now to make mayonnaise, you can’t just break an egg into the oil and acid mix and “shake it like you just don’t care.” You have to whip the egg yoke with part of the acid and then very slowly, even drop by drop, begin to mix in the oil to form an emulsion. Slowly, two things that don’t go together form something stable and all together different from what ether could have done alone.  Yet, the oil and acid haven’t disappeared, haven’t stopped being who they are.  Instead, the lecithin has enabled the two to be suspended together on a microscopic level.
     Being married and living out that commitment is similar. Slowly mixed through the agitations of life, the two become one. What is the “egg yoke” that can make this alchemy possible?  We believe it is a combination of empathy and communication skills.  If your marriage seems to be more like acid and oil not mixing, our counselors would love to help bring some of the emulsifying skills to help support you as you continue to seek a unique, deep relationship.
-Geoff Whiteman, staff therapist

“What Do I Say Now?”- Using (Part of) Expression Skill To Get Different Results

“What do I say now?!?” This question was posed to me recently by a girl who was trying to figure out what to say to a college roommate who was being…less respectful of their shared space than she would like. This is a common issue, whether between roommates, couples, work colleagues, or friends, of trying to answer the question, “What do I say when they did ______, and I am not ok with it?” While each situation is unique, we at IDEALS teach (and use for ourselves!) what we call “Expression Skill” to guide us as we talk through difficult issues.

The goal of Expression Skill is to express yourself fully and honestly in a way that maximizes the likelihood that others will respond to you with cooperation. It is not manipulation.  It is not “buttering someone up.”  It IS a way of influencing how someone will respond to you while allowing yourself to be fully honest about your perspective.  Sounds great, right?  Getting to be honest about an important issue (which can also be scary sometimes) but getting cooperation?

Here’s the first of the 7 parts of Expression Skill: Think before you speak. Yeah, sounds simple, but we often ignore what seems like common sense because it is hard to do.  Thinking before you speak is not ruminating about how the other person hurt you or what you want to just get off your chest.  Thinking before you speak means thinking through how you want to be honest and how your choice of honest words will affect the other person (turn them off or invite them to dialogue with you).  When you think before you speak, you give yourself time to calm down (which is really important!) and to also think about why you want to be honest with this person.  Maybe you really value the relationship. Maybe you want to work better together or at least co-exist with less tension. Maybe you have a common goal like paying off the house or keeping you living space hospitable for guests. When you think before you speak, you give yourself time to consider the value of the other person and the relationship. Expression Skill also includes considering the time and place of discussion (maybe trying to have an important discussion in the middle of a UK game or when both of you are overly tired is not likely to get the cooperation you want).

Learning to use at least this first part of Expression Skill can make a huge difference in helping you be heard and understood while getting different results. We, the IDEALS staff, know it works because we use it on a regular basis.  We do so because we believe that people, relationships, honest expression, and compassion are worth our time and effort to think before we speak.  If you are interested in learning the other 6 parts of Expression Skill, contact us. We teach Expression Skill and all of the other Relationship Enhancement skills in a variety of settings- one-on-one in the office, at workshops, and in groups with various organizations.

Do you have an example of when you thought before you spoke?  What result did you get?   Leave us a comment to let us know!


-Julie Dodson, Community Outreach Coordinator

The Power of Genuineness

With reality TV shows on almost every channel during primetime, we can all begin to wonder- is any of this actually real?  While a lot of what comes on these shows may be staged or edited to entice the viewing audience, considering what is reality is an important question.  What makes someone real?  How do you know when someone is being real in a relationship?

These questions point to the power of genuineness.  At times, we all may lie, fake, or withhold information to “save face,” control how others view us, and to ensure people respond to us in a predictable way.  However, by acting in this way, we are missing an opportunity to be real in our relationships so that they can grow and go to a deeper place emotionally.  We also are missing the opportunity to be honest with ourselves and to own the feelings that we are having about a particular situation.

In thinking through genuineness, these are a few points that can help us become more real with how we express ourselves to others.  Many of these ideas are outlined in Susan Campbell’s book Getting Real, which is referenced in IDEALS’ group curriculum Back on Track, written by Mary Ortwein, Sharon Bryant, and Benita Peoples.

Notice your own experience and then express it.  Self-awareness is a key point in being genuine, which includes noting your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires at any given moment.  This awareness will allow us to share our experience and therefore be more genuine in our relationships when doing so.

Invite a response while keeping distinct views.  Once becoming self-aware and then expressing yourself, ask “What do you think about what I just said?”  This type of statement will allow you to know if you are communicating your thoughts clearly.  However, it is good to keep in mind that though your experience may be very different from another’s, it is important to accept that person’s view as there own, not yours.  Often, when we hear a family member expressing their frustration or anger at a given situation, we are inclined to feel the same emotions.  However, noting that your experience is different and not feeling the pressure that one of you needs to change increases your self-awareness and genuineness.

Genuineness can be a powerful tool in developing more meaningful relationships.  It not only increases our self-awareness but also will grow the value of honesty in our personal and professional lives.  So, while reality TV may be entertaining in all of its drama, the person sitting beside you on the couch may be the one with whom a real, meaningful adventure can grow.

-Kristi Dugger, staff therapist