The truth of the matter is very simple, unaddressed mental, emotional and physical pain will rise up when you least expect it and until it is resolved. Resolution needs to be done on the unconscious, subconscious and cellular levels. The only sane thing for a truly conscious person and a community can do is to provide both survivors of abuse and abusers to heal their respective mental, emotional and physical pain.
This article is for those who have hurt others, those who have been hurt, and those who simply need to be part of a healing process to help with reconciliation. It is only through reconciliation that a person can become whole within themselves as well as reunited with society in a healthy way.
1. Recognize your Mistake(s) and Take Responsibility
Step one to atone for pain that you caused another requires you to recognize your mistake(s). The mistake could have been something as simple as stealing your best friend’s favorite toy when you were younger. The guilt of that may have been haunting you, and now, it’s time to deal with that guilt and any pain your friend endured.
Before talking to the friend (if you’re still in touch), you may want to find additional sources of support to help you in understanding your mistake(s) and what prompted you to do it. You may want to journal about the situation to fully look at what you did—cause and effect. This step is all about coming into full acceptance of what you did so that you take full responsibility for your actions.
2. Investigate the Source of the Mistake
Actions are like the fruits of the tree. They are offshoots of a whole chain of events that have led up to the moment they were taken. Many times healing for a transgressor/abuser is incomplete because they do not understand the roots of their actions. They are punished and are told that a specific action is wrong. They don’t get help in understanding where the behavior originated. Nothing will be resolved without knowing where and how it originated.
For instance, if someone is growing up in a violent community, then violence is being taught to them every day of their lives. The person is being setting up to take violent actions, and of course, being around lots of violence is constantly triggering a flight or fight response. They’re stuck in at an alert level that maintains readiness to fight or run from the situations that are going on. This kind of alertness can then show up in inappropriate situations where there is no real threat, but the person is too stuck in fear to see it for what it is. They are on autopilot. If they’ve been beaten and abused themselves, then the tendency to lash out with violence is all set up to be the response. The person is a powder keg waiting for the smallest of sparks to ignite.
This example is one of many for those who make more violent transgressions against other people. However, for anyone who believes they’ve wronged another, there was a string of events building up out of childhood that needs to be investigated so that she/he understands what the root of the issue. When you know that, you can get to work on resolving the real issue. Thus, eliminating the retaliation trigger forever.
3. Healing the Issue(s) that Caused the Mistake
Once one or several root issues (because it can be many) are identified, this is when the work gets real. This is a step that is missed more often than not. Some people know the reason they did what they did, but they have no idea how to get the core issues fully identified, processed and released. That’s also the reason punishment is ineffective. It doesn’t teach people how to heal and to fully resolve the issue that caused him/her to do what he/she did and will more often than not, do it again if it isn’t resolved.
There are countless blog posts on the Internet on spiritual awakening dedicated to healing issues of all kinds. The key things to understand is that this can be a long and messy process, but it can bring you greater peace and inner freedom if you are willing to do the work with a Transformation Hypnosis practitioner who will guide you to discover the cause on the unconscious, subconscious and cellular levels, process the details and release them.
4. Acknowledge Your Mistake and Forgiveness (When Possible)
First and foremost, you need to forgive yourself first. Forgiving oneself is often more difficult than forgiving another person. Maybe you blame yourself for doing what you did that led up to the harm you caused another. You wonder what prompted you to avoid paying attention to all the signs you saw regarding the interaction that led up to your transgression. Why didn’t we say no? Why didn’t we say yes? Why didn’t we take the job? Maybe you wonder why you waited so long to make amends? Or, you wish you would have stuck up for yourself all those years ago? Behind every hurt we’ve experienced in our lives is an opportunity to forgive ourselves. Maybe the idea of forgiving oneself seems silly. You wonder what is the reason a person would need to forgive themselves. The truth is people often blame themselves along with blaming those who’ve hurt them. Or they are ashamed of themselves for hurting someone they love or care about. Too often people are unwilling to acknowledge their behavior—I was wronged therefore, I had the right to do what I did back. They blame themselves for being in situations where they were hurt. This can lead to feelings of anger, resentment and even self-hatred. You may spend so much time unpacking your anger at the person who hurt you that you neglect the anger you have for yourself.
Forgiving yourself and others sets you free to live your life without being encumbered with heavy negative feelings rolling around in your psyche.
Every transgression is different, but when possible it is important to acknowledge your mistake(s) to the person(s) who was harmed. For something like the theft of a toy example, that might be done via an email or phone call. If the transgression is more recent and there is still an active connection to the person, you could have the conversation in person. If the transgression was serious like a murder, the admission and asking for forgiveness may be directed to the surviving family members, and it would very likely need to go through the appropriate legal channels so that everyone is safe. To be sure, other people may want to commit violence back on the transgressor for a very serious and permanent act like murder. But being killed would not serve anything. That kind of martyrdom would only continue the cycles of pain and suffering that people already live in. So safety is key for ALL participants in the forgiveness process.
I’m using some very serious examples, and I’m sure many of you don’t have to deal with such things. If you’re asking for forgiveness from your children and your spouse for having forgotten to pick up the kids from soccer practice, that’s a moderately uncomfortable situation. But everyone is already under the same roof, so that’s a matter of setting aside time together to talk things through. That example too can be a powerful learning process for children to see how a parent atones for their bad behavior, which is not something parents experienced in their maturation years. Therefore, they don’t have a role model. Many parents want to be right in the face of their children even when they are wrong. This creates all kinds of future problems. Healing a transgression with one’s children also offers the added benefit of teaching your children how to address transgressions they may commit or future ones in their relationships from kindergarten to adult relationships.
Finally, if no interaction is possible, then speak the forgiveness by using his/her name and making your declaration out loud. I recommend having the full conversation that you need to have out loud or on paper to fully confess all the things you feel. You may have a close friend, spiritual teacher, or other confidante sit in the space as the person who was hurt. Then at the end, as sincerely as you can, ask for forgiveness. See what transpires next. Many people have experienced the person she/he spoke their regret and asked for forgiveness contacted them.
5. Sincerely Making Amends
Part of the forgiveness process may involve making amends before being forgiven by the other person. Sometimes, forgiveness comes first, and then specific amends can be taken. However, taking specific actions to address the transgression is key.
Sometimes, the actions to make amends will be obvious. If you broke a vase, then you fix it or buy a new one. Other pains that people cause require different kinds of amends to the person and/or people who have been wronged. If a person has been correcting others in an attempt to make themselves feel superior for a long time, there’s not a tangible thing to be given necessarily. It’s not like paying a fine would make sense or something to that nature. Instead, this superiority issue leads to step six where the person has to practice new behaviors such as not interrupting, shouting over, judging, or whatever way they did to prove themselves right at the expense of others.
Most of all, the person who is atoning needs to be sincere. A true atonement process is not like being forced to pick up trash as a community service. In so many instances, such an action is not decided upon between the two parties (abused and abuser). It comes from someone else like a court, and it may lack any relevance to what the transgression actually was. So discussing with the other person (when possible) what she/he would like done as an appropriate amends is important. It also can help the abused individual to fully heal, which is the best of all possibilities in atoning for any pain you caused another. Then you do what is asked as sincerely and to the best of your abilities.
6. Practicing New, Corrected Behaviors
It needs to be said that sometimes those who have been hurt won’t be ready to immediately forgive or will never forgive a transgressor. That is their choice. Your choice is to do your utmost to resolve your core issues and to take the actions you need to amend the situation. If the situation is something like having stolen things, then the old things get returned, or the person is reimbursed in some way. Doing these things are part of both truly acknowledging your transgression and practicing new behaviors. Additionally, if the person’s old behaviors were about taking things (a.k.a stealing), then important new behaviors are needed. For example, volunteering and being of service would be new behaviors, and they would help to dissolve the old unhealthy behaviors by giving the person a clear replacement.
It is okay to not get these new behaviors perfectly right. Diligence and dedication are important to truly embrace new ways of acting. For a time, you may still return to some old habits. Obviously, the more egregious ones like physical violence need to be resisted at all times, and if this is difficult, then you need to find additional supports in going deeper in inner work to fully resolve violent tendencies. However, the more benign backslides might be in the over-criticizing people example. While not OK you can quickly apologize and made amends if necessary. However, that also means there is more healing work to be done to ensure that you stop hurting others or hurting yourself. That means, this process of atonement will at times ask you to return to steps 2 and 3 to ensure that you are fully releasing the issues that caused you to hurt another or multiple people.
7. Re-introduction to the Wronged Person (When Possible) / including Society
At the end of this, it’s important that when possible a transgressor can be received anew. Unlike a lot of the way society handles transgressions and crimes of all kinds, there needs to be a social mechanism for reintegration with society and oftentimes the individual who is wronged. They need to be accepted as a new person in many ways.
If someone who has sexually abused their partner, child or others, has truly done the first six steps and the two people still want to be together, there needs to be space to redevelop the relationship. Reintroduction is more than just saying, “Hey my wrong is fixed!” It’ll likely require changes in behavior on the part of the other person too. There will be a way that both people need to redefine the relationship so that it can be healthy, and if they do this, the relationship could be far stronger and more loving than ever before.
Other situations will require more work than some. Society needs to find space in its collective heart to allow a truly redeemed murderer to get a job without shutting them out. That requires much more work socially and legislatively. However, doing so means having someone be a healthy part of society once more and will further cement the healing process. When this is not allowed, people get pushed back into the shadows even after serving time in prison and hopefully doing the above work. That makes becoming a repeat offender almost a certainty, and everyone suffers more because of lack or unwillingness to find a way to forgive.
I think one of the most wonderful examples of deep healing is in the following story about Rwanda after genocide. If people there can befriend the murderer of their brother and so many others, then people anywhere can do it.
Last, but not least, Dedication, Dedication, Dedication
Once again, the key in all of this is dedication. This is a messy process. There is no certainty in healing, and all parties are likely to fall back to their most basic ego programs. So we all need to be dedicated to foster healing of transgressors, and transgressors fostering healing for themselves. Thus, creating space for people to have atoned and be welcomed back into the heart of society. If we do this challenging work, there will be countless benefits for all of us and a far more peaceful and kind society than we can imagine unless we do the work and reap the benefits.
Published: May 27, 2023