FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 10, 2013) -- With the arrival of any new year, resolutions are often made regarding physical health, financial security, travel plans and interpersonal relationships.

It is within the last category of human interaction that difficulties are especially prone to occur and goals for greater communication, connection and intimacy to be abandoned.

Even among the best of relationships, mistakes, slights and offenses will inevitably arise. Being hurt, particularly by people we love and trust, can be very painful. To heal the injury of transgressions, one is wise to forgive others.

Many people do not understand the concept of forgiveness when they are dealing with a hurtful event.

It is important to know that forgiveness is not condoning someone’s actions, justifying the behaviors, making yourself vulnerable to harm again, or reconciling with the offender. Rather, forgiveness is a positive change in how one feels toward the other.

Forgiveness results in giving up thoughts or plans for retaliation. This change in feeling is not earned by the offender and may or may not lead to a renewed relationship.

Empathy allows us to appreciate another’s perspective and to feel and think as they do. In forgiving a person, try to identify all the underlying reasons that could account for the individual’s behavior. These reasons do not excuse the action, but may explain extenuating circumstances or situational variables that led to the offense.

It is not uncommon for individuals to discover that the offender did not intentionally mean to inflict damage but was simply trying to solve complex problems or manage numerous life stressors.

Forgiveness is a gift that we chose to offer. All of us have inflicted hurts upon somebody else, whether it was intentional or unintentional. To be released from the bondage of guilt for which one feels remorse or regret is liberating.

You have the power to free the person who hurt you from their sense of guilt. Through forgiveness, you set yourself free from the emotional stress of anger, revenge and resentment.

When ready to forgive, make a commitment. Select a date for this action and put it in writing in a safe place. This record will serve as documentation that you made the decision to forgive.

When lingering emotions arise, such as being reminded of the offense or seeing the offender, then one has the written proof of the conscious decision made. Hold onto the forgiveness and the residual negative thoughts and feelings will eventually fade.

Developing empathy, giving forgiveness as a gift, and making a commitment to forgive are crucial to the forgiving process.

These steps will enable one to more effectively work through transgressions.

If you’re struggling, with particular offenses or with unpleasant feelings for a particular person(s), then you may need to talk with a trained mental health clinician.

Some offenses are too difficult to manage on your own but can be resolved with the help of a qualified professional.