Welcome to “Love & Sex Today.” I’m Dr. Doug Weiss, and today we will be discussing the topic “Forgive Others.” Life gives you a lot of opportunities to get hurt, offended, scarred, and as we talked about in a previous post, to get angry. Hopefully you read that post and did your anger exercises, and you’re ready for today’s conversation. We have a lot of choices as couples. We can walk around keeping track of everything, or we can let stuff move past us, move through it, learn the lessons of life, and be able to really embrace the new adventures without all the baggage of un-forgiveness. We’re going to get into that today.
We want you to have a great life, and that’s why we’re doing this blog, so that you can really enjoy having a great life. Let’s get into the topic today, “Forgiving Others.” Now, you’ve heard my story by now. If you’ve read several of these posts, you know I was conceived in adultery, abused, abandoned, sexually addicted, and became an alcoholic, drug addict, and sex addict. I’ve been sober for over 30 years, or 35 years, depending on the addiction you choose. There was a lot of pain. There’s a lot of pain when you’re put in a foster home, and you’re abandoned by your mom and your dad. There’s a lot of pain when you never met your dad. There’s a lot of pain when you’ve been sexually abused. There’s a lot of pain when different relationships hurt you, girlfriends, and pain after pain. So I really had to take a journey on this one.
I had to do my anger work, which we talked about in my previous post, “Flush Away Your Toxic Anger.” I encourage you to read that post if you haven’t, before you do what I’m going to ask you to do today, because if you have a lot of unresolved anger, it’s going to be hard for you to move to forgiveness. That’s a very classic mistake. A lot of people go to counseling, and sometimes their counselor says, “Well, just forgive that person and move on.” But sometimes you’ve got a bullet of anger, and you have to deal with that bullet before you can actually benefit from some of the forgiveness things that you’re being advised to do. I would strongly encourage you to ready my post to “Flush Away Your Toxic Anger,” and then come back to this one so you can really forgive, because forgiveness gives you freedom.
When we get into a place where we’re stuck and we’re not able to forgive, or we’re not even aware that we need to forgive (which oftentimes happens,) it can start messing with the way you think and feel. It can mess with the way you trust or don’t trust. It can affect your judgment in future relationships. So you want to be really careful. Being clean as far as forgiving others is really a part of healing and recovery. When you get stuck with someone in your life from your past, they start driving your car in some careless way. You don’t want someone who’s been irresponsible in the past to have any influence on driving your car in the future or even in the present. You don’t want these things to keep coming up.
I’m going to give you an exercise today that will allow you to really forgive others. Make a list of the people you feel really hurt you. If you haven’t done the anger work, do the anger work on them. Look at that list of people. Put them in some kind of order for yourself. For each one of these, you’re going to do this exercise. This may sound like an odd thing to do, but I can tell you I’ve seen the miracle of healing happen thousands of times. I mean, thousands of times. Every week in my office, someone is doing this and it’s amazing how much freedom comes. After you do the anger work, you get rid of all that sludge, but then there’s this exercise that helps you really walk in freedom. I don’t want to hold any of my perpetrators or people who’ve hurt me in my heart in a negative way because that hurts me. I don’t want to live in a way that is hurting myself. You don’t either. You deserve to have better information and better tools, and that’s what “Love & Sex Today” is all about. It’s about giving you better information and better tools so you can live an awesome life.
So let’s get to this. Here’s what you’re going to need. You’re going to need two chairs. Two kitchen chairs are fine or folding chairs. If you don’t have any chairs, you want to sit on two ends of the sofa. This is going to be a role-play exercise. Don’t judge this exercise until after you’ve done it a couple times, because so many people have walked away from life-changing experiences they could have had in my office, but they were like, “No. I don’t want to do that.” I’m saying, “This isn’t going to hurt you. It’s going to take five or ten minutes.” “Ahhhh, I don’t want to face that pain, Dr. Weiss. I don’t want to deal with that person. I don’t want to. They don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
Well, I probably would agree with you that based on what they’ve done to you, that’s a valid observation. But how’s that working for you? How is holding them in contempt and anger in your body helping or hurting them? At this point, it’s just continuing the pain they gave to you. My idea is to cut that pain off. Move away from it so you can really heal and be free. That’s what we want you to do on love and sex. We want you to be free so you can have incredible relationships. Get your two chairs and face them towards each other about a foot or so apart from each other.
Let’s call the person you’re mad at, Harry, okay? Maybe Harry sexually abused you. Maybe Harry was your dad or stepdad, or maybe Harry was a boss who really took advantage of you. Or maybe Harry is a lawyer or some other kind of leader who hurt you. It doesn’t really matter what the role in your life was. It’s just a matter that they hurt you. Sit in the first chair we’re going to call chair A. The second chair is chair B. Sit in chair A, the first chair. In this chair, I want you to do a role play, and I want you to be Harry. I don’t want you to be yourself. I want you to be him with a clear, mature mind as if this person was fully aware of what they’ve done and the impact it had on your life.
As a mature Harry, I want you to own and apologize out loud verbally to chair B which is you, symbolically you. So if Harry’s the perpetrator, and I’m the person who was hurt, I would role-play being Harry talking to Doug. Harry might say, “You know, Doug, I need you to forgive me for what I did to you. That wasn’t about you. I was sick. I was immature. I was irresponsible. What I did to you should have never been done, etc.” That may go on for minutes. Sometimes it’s two minutes. Sometimes it’s fifteen minutes, especially if it’s a parent or something of that nature. It can take a while. If it’s been an ex-spouse, it can take a while, because there’s literally pages of history of pain this person has caused you. Whatever length of time it takes, it doesn’t matter. You sit there, and you go through it as Harry talking to yourself.
When Harry’s done asking for forgiveness, physically get up, and go sit in chair B. In chair B, I am myself, and I just heard Harry ask for forgiveness, so I can respond to him. Honestly, I have listened to thousands of these, thousands. I’ve even done these in conferences where people have forgiven others. It’s been powerful. In chair B, I’m myself. As myself, I need to respond to Harry’s open, honest request to be forgiven. I may pause there. You may think there, but you need to say something, even if it’s, “I hate you. I’m never going to forgive you.” Okay, that’s a beginning. You need to open that conversation.
Sometimes you will be able to forgive parts of it. “You know, Harry, I can forgive you for this and this, but this one I’m still … I need some time on this one. It’s kind of got me still. But I’ll come back. I’ll come back next month. We’ll do this again.” That’s a fine answer. Again, this is not about the formula, because you’re alone. Even in my office, if I’m sitting there with a client and they’re doing this exercise, I tell them, “Don’t perform because I’m sitting here. I want you to be absolutely honest.” Sometimes they may respond in chair B, “I still hate you. I can’t do this.” Many times, (especially if they’ve done the anger exercise we talked about in my previous post) they’re in a place where they don’t want to carry that pain anymore.
Your vocal forgiveness may sound something like this, “You know, Harry, what you did was awful. I’m not going to minimize the pain and the impact it cost me in my life, my marriage, my relationships, and my mind. You’ve messed with me, but I’m no longer carrying your shame, and your guilt, your sickness, your choices, and your perversity. It’s just not going to stay in my soul. I can let that go by forgiving you, and I’m forgiving you because I love myself. I’m forgiving you because I want freedom. I’m forgiving you because it’s the right thing to do, and I just need to do it so I can walk away from my past with you. I don’t want you having one more second of my day. Not one more moment do I want your face or your situation coming up in my heart. I don’t want you to have that power anymore. So for my sake, I’m forgiving you. I’m walking out of this room and I forgive you. You don’t owe me anything. There’s no more debt. There’s nothing I can do to change this. I fully accept the pain you caused me, but I don’t want to carry it anymore.”
It’s like “poof.” As I said, I’ve had thousands of people do this. This is powerful. If you don’t forgive, or if you’re still stuck, you’re done for right now. Come back next month and do this once a month until you actually get it done where you can forgive, because this is for you. This isn’t for Harry. This is for you to be free and well. But if you do forgive, then you’re not done for the moment. You want to go back into chair A as Harry, and you want to respond to the forgiveness that was given to you. In this case, Harry was forgiven by Doug. So Harry would say, “Doug, thank you so much for forgiving me. That was amazingly mature. I don’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve my interactions with you, and I’m just fortunate that you forgave me.”
Then you’re done. Then you get up, go for a walk, do whatever you want to do. If you’re going to do more, give yourself at least a few minutes to get through the process. Please, again, make sure you’ve done the anger work before you do this work, because you need to get rid of anger before you forgive. It’s super important. You don’t want to carry that anger. My recent post, “Flush Away Your Toxic Anger,” explains the process. Definitely listen to that and do the process before you do this work. This can literally change your life. This can save you thousands of dollars in mental health bills or even physical health bills, because unforgiveness can affect your health. You deserve to forgive others. It’s up to you. You’re going to have to take responsibility for it. They’re not going to come around and ask you for forgiveness. This isn’t about them doing something to make you better. This is you doing something to make yourself better and to make your life awesome. You deserve that.
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