For many of my clients, dealing with trauma from our past and present requires the ability to forgive. How people define forgiveness and what they do to practice forgiveness can vary and it can be a difficult process to face. I talk with clients about learning to forgive in three stages.
First, we must understand the person that hurt us is in pain from whatever has happened in their life. They may intentionally, but usually unintentionally, be inflicting pain on other people as a result of their own hurt. We hold on to our anger because we feel that this person should be "punished" for what they have done. When we choose to forgive we have decided not to seek revenge, not to retaliate. We have decided to let go of the pain being placed upon us and to free ourselves of resentment. This is not a process that is done with the other person; it is an internal release to set us free, whether or not that person has acknowledged their wrongs. The Buddhist see forgiveness as a "gift" to both us and the person who has harmed us, as we have freed our energies from a cycle of pain.