The Christian community considers the Bible to be the definitive word of God. The Bible is often referred to as a manual for daily living and therefore we often will recite scripture or summarize Bible stories as a way to help others and ourselves in dealing with the difficulties of life. Biblical truths are very powerful when spoken with compassion and understanding towards others.
As a Christian counselor, my style in helping others tries to combine the clinical research and findings related to various mental health and emotional issues with these Biblical truths. There are various proven and valid Christian counseling techniques for helping others in dealing with their problems. One such method is the REACH Model, which is a forgiveness and reconciliation model that works particularly well with couples that are seeking marriage counseling.
Psychologist Everett Worthington Jr., who back in 1996 endured a horrific tragedy, developed the REACH Model after his own elderly mother was beaten and attacked. His ability to develop understanding and forgiveness towards the persons who performed this act became an inspiration to many and is what allowed the REACH Model to take form.
The REACH Model is an acronym meaning:
Recall the hurt
Empathize with the one who hurt you
Altruistic gift of forgiveness
Commitment to forgive
Hold on to the forgiveness
Step 1 Recall the Hurt. When we are hurt, it is natural to experience fear or anger. Fear prompts us to run and anger prompts us to attack. It is natural for a victim to try to physically and mentally avoid the aggressor. Mental avoidance consists of trying to forget or distract the mind from focusing on painful thoughts related to the event. Physical avoidance is relatively easy, but escaping thoughts is more difficult and can highly frustrating. It is difficult to forgive if fear or anger still dominates your mind. The way to overcome the fear or the anger is to recall the event and still try to relax. Take deep, slow and calming breaths as you visualize the event and recall the hurt event fully. Do not hesitate to seek help from a friend or a therapist if it’s difficult to do on your own.
Step 2 Empathize with the person who hurt you. Explain the hurtful act, not from your perspective, but from that of the other. Why did he or she do this? The purpose of this imaginative exercise is not to arrive at the most accurate explanation of the wrongdoer’s actions but to find an explanation with which you can live and let go. For example, you may say to yourself, “People who hurt others are themselves usually in a state of fear, anger or hurt” or, “People are not always thinking rationally when they hurt others.” Couples often struggle with this concept because they often have such high trust and expectation in each other and can feel betrayed when one hurts the other. But, the love they have for each other can hopefully allow for empathy to take place. Also, understanding the love God has for us is important in being able to have empathy for others.
Step 3 Altruistic gift of forgiveness. This can again be a very difficult thing to do, especially when the person giving this gift of forgiveness was the one who originally felt they were the victims. But, God regularly forgives his people and provides grace. Giving a person who wronged us the gift of forgiveness is a way of telling the person that they are worth it and also helps lift the burden of anger and bitterness.
Step 4 Commit yourself. Make a commitment to yourself to forgive publicly so you don’t have a chance to back out later. Such public commitment may include announcing your intention to a group you belong to, write a “certificate of forgiveness” with a specific date on the certificate; write a letter of forgiveness to the wrongdoer and reading it out loud, directly confronting the person who hurt you, or tell a trusted friend about your act of forgiveness. Obviously, before we can publicly or privately forgive, I believe we have to pray for God to heal our hearts and give us this ability and confidence.
Step 5 Hold onto forgiveness. Memories of the hurtful event will surface even after you have forgiven the wrongdoer. Hopefully, the memories will not be as emotional and disturbing as they were before you exercised your ability to forgive. Forgiveness should be genuine. Learn to interrupt all thoughts related to revenge and self-pity. True forgiveness reduces chronic anger, fear and stress, increases optimism and brings health benefits.
Tagline: Michael Linn, M.Ed., is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a Regional Director at Safe Harbor Christian Counseling with office locations in Altoona, Carlisle, Chambersburg, Fairfield, Hagerstown, and Gettysburg. Please visit www.safeharbor1.com for more information or call 717-264-0614 to make an appointment.