NORMAN — When we have hurt others in personal, deep and unfair ways, we need a way that we can help them heal. There is a very powerful technique I call “The Fourth Chapter Letter.”
Lewis Smedes in “Forgive and Forget” recommends a four-step process. I like his strategy and have added a fifth step.
Step No. 1: Take the time to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine what you would have felt if you had been hurt in the same way you hurt them (e.g. betrayed, humiliated, abandoned, unloved, etc.). Write down these feelings. You will need them for step No. 2. This is not an easy task for men to do, but it prepares us to do one of the most important parts of this strategy.
Step No. 2: Write the person a letter, telling them that you took the time to put yourself in their shoes and what you felt (e.g. betrayed, humiliated, abandoned, unloved, etc.). This is where your list from step No. 1 pays off. Make sure you use actual feeling words.
Step No. 3: Tell the person you are sorry you hurt them that way. It makes it a more meaningful “I’m sorry” if they know you realize what you are sorry for.
Step No. 4: Tell them you will never hurt them that way again. If you struggle with the thought that, “I don’t want to promise something that I am not sure I can do,” remember the millions of people who have vowed to “love, honor and cherish, in good times and bad, as long as we both shall live” who violate that promise hundreds of times in their marriage but would never consider eliminating that vow from their wedding ceremony.
We need to hear absolute commitments from important people in our lives, even though we realize it will be humanly impossible to accomplish the commitment “to the letter.”