“Forgive as much as you wish to be forgiven” — Jesus
No one gets through life without being hurt by another person. Sometimes it’s a pain that lingers from a thoughtless remark, or a lie that someone told about us. Anyone suffering from an unhappy marriage, the devastation of infidelity, or physical or emotional abuse, knows what it feels like to be angry and resentful. Finding forgiveness is hard for most people but holding on to toxic hurt feelings and unresolved wounds will never make you feel better.
In Part 1: “3 Best Reasons to Forgive,”
I explain why forgiveness is many things including a gift to yourself. Here are five steps to help you find forgiveness.
Step One: Acknowledge Your True Feelings of Hurt and Anger
It may seem easier to deny you’re feelings of pain and resentment, but that will not make the pain go away. Acknowledging how you really feel is confirming that the hurt and the suffering are real.
Start by letting all the things that happened roll through your mind and write everything down. Don’t deny your feelings of anguish. Read it out loud if you can.
Did anything good, no matter how small, come from what you experienced? If so, write that down too.
Step Two: Take Responsibility for Protecting Yourself
No, I’m not suggesting you take a martial arts class, but if anyone poses a danger to you physically or emotionally, then you must separate yourself immediately from a potentially harmful situation.
Keep in mind that you can take responsibility for how you feel without taking the blame for the abuse. Think about the part you played in the situation. Ask yourself, “What, if any, is there about me that I need to change so this doesn’t happen to me again?”
Think about how you set limits with other people. Limits are what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior towards us. It’s a skill that needs to be learned, but well worth the effort.
Step Three: Be Willing to Forgive Yourself
You did the best you could at the time. Maybe you made a bad decision because of emotions or selfishness. Make a list of the things you might do differently in the future.
Work at Your Own Pace
Often, we know we need to forgive but we feel overwhelmed by the task and aren’t ready to let go of the hurt.
Finding forgiveness is never easy. Depending upon the circumstances, it might even seem impossible. Keep in mind that each situation is unique, and forgiving is a process that takes time and effort. Work at your own pace and recognize that healing may come slowly.
Step Four: Write a Letter You Never Intend to Send
Address it to the person who hurt you. Express anything you wish to say no matter what it is. Don’t minimize your feelings. This is your time to explore exactly what did/do feel and what you would want them to understand.
Next, try reframing the experience. Rewrite your story from the perspective of you overcoming adversity and the steps you are now taking to prioritize peace, joy, health and well-being. Paint your new life moving forward as a world filled with love and hope.
Step Five: Take Forward Action/Let it go
Forgiving is not forgetting. It’s costly remembering. Yes, it happened, but now it’s in the past. The past is to be learned from, not lived in. Keep in mind that healing only starts when you decide that you’re tired of being angry at another person and ready to let go. Forgiving is a conscious act that moves you forward. When an environmental “trigger” brings up your anger and memories, simply reassert to yourself that you have made the choice to forgive them and therefore, will live in the present with no wallowing in resentment.
Be patient with yourself. Knowing how to forgive and letting go will align you with a world of possibilities. Forgiving is a pathway to peace and contentment with life. Keep moving forward.