Help Me Help Others


How many times have you tried to help someone work through personal problems and found them getting “stuck” at some point along the way? One area where this often happens is in the process of forgiveness and healing from past hurts. Many of us, despite our best intentions, have had times when true forgiveness just seemed out of reach. Sometimes forgiveness feels too much like letting the other person off the hook. Or we try to forgive and move on, but something happens and the old hurt and anger flare up as strongly as ever.


In his book Help Me Help Others: Practical Ways to Build Healthy Relationships, Dr. Larry Wagner offers tools to help people identify and overcome relational challenges. One of those tools is what he calls The Forgiveness Marker in which he provides a helpful eight-step model to guide us through the process of how to truly forgive someone.

The first two steps are some of the most important and too often skipped. Step One: “Take a full account of the wrongs suffered.” Have you taken the time or even given yourself permission to do that? If we have been hurt deeply, rushing to forgive without first taking stock of what exactly needs to be forgiven can be like slapping a Band-Aid on a wound. Giving ourselves the time and space to take that account can be painful, but enables us to move forward into the forgiveness process in a fuller way.

Step two is closely related: “Grieve the hurt or loss.” As Wagner explains, grieving provides an outlet for our pain. “When the grieving process is underway, our pain is expressed, discussed, and sometimes creatively displayed on canvas or through music, physical exertion, acts of service to those who are hurting, or journaling” (p. 128-129). Help the hurting person explore what their own grief outlet may look like.

Working well through those first two steps helps a person be more ready to make a choice to forgive and to move forward into the other steps, such as setting boundaries for acceptable behavior going forward. Would you like to learn more about The Forgiveness Marker and other helpful tools, and work through how to apply these tools to your own life as well as in helping others?

If you would like to learn more, click here to learn more about this and other group sessions.