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REACHing Towards Forgiveness 

Last week, I shared my own experience with forgiving myself and learning that it was okay for me to set healthy boundaries. In the time I was working on adapting Everett Worthington’s workbook on Forgiveness into an accessible online course, I was also trying to figure out how to navigate my relationship with a close family member who had hurt me. Worthington’s REACH model is an empirically supported and widely accessible model to start your journey to forgiveness. 

R: Recalling the hurt (in helpful ways). 

Bringing up painful memories can be emotionally and physically activating. Please prioritize your safety and lean on your systems of support if you decide to proceed in this process. Remember that you are in control. Here, I followed Worthington’s exercises myself in identifying the emotions that came up, where they were held in my body, and how to somatically release the heaviness. 

E: Empathy for the one who hurt you: The hard part. 

It is important to note that you can follow this step without justifying the harmful actions and hurt that are associated with this person. I considered the differences from our upbringing; this person grew up in an entirely different time, country, and environment from me, and I acknowledged that he was not given the tools to heal his own hurts. It sounds silly, but I roleplayed and verbally gave myself the apology that I had been wanting from this person. At the core, this process is for you. 

A: Altruistic gift of forgiveness. 

Altruism can be described as the selfless principle of caring for others. Choosing forgiveness does not mean that you are opening yourself up to getting hurt again or restarting/continuing your relationship with the person. However, continuing cycles of resentment and revenge can end up in you hurting yourself or someone else. In times of frustration, such as getting a rude server at a restaurant, we have to remember that we do not know what this person is going through, and that this behavior isn’t personal towards us. 

C: Commit to the forgiveness you experienced. 

I can move through the REACH model as many times as I want and it won’t completely erase all of the bad feelings, but it will surely lighten them. Whenever I choose to forgive, I write it down or say it out loud to put it out in the world. 

H: Holding on to forgiveness and becoming a more forgiving person. 

This step involves establishing your self-care for whenever your negative feelings emerge, and how to take control of them. Know that these feelings come up as your body’s way to protect you. 

Worthington’s REACH model not only guided me to create my own definition of forgiveness, but to practice forgiveness in a genuine and sustainable manner. Through this work, I learned how to stop giving out surface-level forgiveness and how to prioritize my own inner peace. I hope that if you start on this journey, you are able to take what you need and heal.  

If you are interested in learning about becoming a more forgiving person to yourself and others, enroll in FFCH’s Forgiveness course, which is based off of Everett Worthington’s widely implemented REACH Forgiveness model and workbook. 

Aimee Layo is on the education team at the Foundation for Family and Community Healing and a Master of Social Work candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University.