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Soucheray: Forgiveness, we learn, is a choice

In the book, "Forgiveness is a Choice," by Dr. Robert Enright, states that forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. He says when we have been harmed in some way by someone, or a situation, it is our choice to hold on to the hurt and the anger we feel toward the other. We all know that hurt and anger has a way of reflecting back on ourselves and harming us much more than it does anyone or anything else. So when we make the choice to forgive, we are actually freeing ourselves.

Take a moment and think about someone or something in your life toward whom you are harboring resentment. As Dr. Enright states, anger is like a red hot flame and resentment is like a burning coal. As we all know, when we're camping in the woods, in order to extinguish the fire we have lit, we are to pour water on the embers, stir the fire and then pour more water over it to be sure it's completely out. A hot coal that is not extinguished, Enright contends, is like resentment and has been known to burn down a forest. When we choose to hold on to resentment, it has the opportunity to significantly affect our lives.

Is there someone in your life who has caused you distraction because you are so resentful toward them? Did something happen 20 years ago and yet it feels like it occurred yesterday? Ask yourself what anger and resentment have cost you. Have you been less present in your everyday relationships with your family and friends? Have you offered less at your place of work because the anger arises and distracts you from doing the kind of job you would want to do?

Dr. Enright offers a process for forgiving another person, which he outlines in his book in a readable, approachable manner. While it is supported by research studies on forgiveness, it is not written in formal language. Rather, it is presented in layman's terms and provides clear explanations about the value of forgiveness, both for ourselves and others. Throughout the book, he presents questions for journaling opportunities that allow a person to move deeper into how they feel and why they believe they may be feeling this way, as well as suggestions about how to feel differently.

Forgiveness is a choice as well as a gift. Think about how you might offer this gift to yourself this week. For when we choose to forgive someone who has harmed us, we become more present and accessible to others who need us and count on us every day, as well as to ourselves.

Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist