Most of us can think of something in our lives we feel we could never forgive. For some people, the list is very long and may even be completely justified. The trouble though is that the other person involved is often completely unaffected. It’s our own head and heart that are messed up as we hold on to that hurt, anger and resentment.
For this reason alone, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to forgive. Here’s how to start:
Accept what happened
Accepting doesn’t mean what the other person did was ok or that you are excusing them for it. It’s simply about acknowledging that it happened and that you were affected by it. If you’re in denial that (a) it happened or (b) you have strong feelings about it, it’s almost impossible to move on.
Figure out what you learned
What did the incident show you about yourself? Perhaps you realised how resilient you are, as in “If I can survive that, I can survive anything” or maybe you even got stronger as a result. You may have learned what’s really important to you, what your needs are or where you perhaps need stronger boundaries.
Consider the other person’s perspective
Most people are simply doing the best they can with what they know. Maybe they didn’t mean to hurt you, didn’t know better or did what they felt they had to, to protect themselves. Perhaps they have low self-esteem and it makes them feel more powerful when they can wield power over someone else. Again, understanding this doesn’t excuse them, it just helps you see things from a different perspective.
Decide what to do next
If you can feel some compassion for them now, that’s great. If you can say out loud “I forgive you”, even better. Whether you say that to their face or not is your choice – although if you do, be sure not to expect a particular response. If you’re not at that place (yet or ever), you may at least have a clearer idea of why it happened, and be better equipped to either avoid it or deal with it differently if it comes up again.
Remember that forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s an act of love for ourselves, freeing us from the burden of that negative energy so we can move forward into a brighter future.