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Isn’t it hard for every one of us to forgive the ones who hurt us, betray us, the ones who stab us in the backs? We are often hurt by the people who are closest to us so it’s natural for the wound to go deeper than the hurt you may endure through a stranger. Largely because you don’t expect hurt to come from their direction.
Forgiving others is essential for spiritual growth. Your experience of someone who has hurt you, while painful, is now nothing more than a thought or feeling that you carry around. These thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that will dis-empower you if you continue to let these thoughts occupy space in your head. Releasing it gives you peace
Anyone who has suffered a grievous hurt knows that when our inner world is badly disrupted, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than our turmoil or pain. When we hold on to hurt, we are emotionally and cognitively hobbled, and our relationships suffer.
Forgiveness is strong medicine for this. When life hits us hard, there is nothing as effective as forgiveness for healing deep wounds.
Forgiveness lets you love again. Once you forgive, your heart is full of love. You are stronger because you love yourself and love others, no matter the magnitude of their shortcomings or transgressions. You forgive because you love, and you love because you forgive.
Steps to Forgive Even When It Feels Impossible
Forgiveness does not necessarily come easily; but it is possible for many of us to achieve, if we have the right tools and are willing to put in the effort.
1. Know what forgiveness is and why it matters
Forgiveness is about goodness, about extending mercy to those who’ve harmed us, even if they don’t “deserve” it. It is not about finding excuses for the offending person’s behavior or pretending it didn’t happen. Nor is there a quick formula you can follow. Forgiveness is a process with many steps that often proceeds in a non-linear fashion.
Working on forgiveness can help us increase our self-esteem and give us a sense of inner strength and safety. It can reverse the lies that we often tell ourselves when someone has hurt us deeply—lies like, I am defeated or I’m not worthy. Forgiveness can heal us and allow us to move on in life with meaning and purpose.
Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of what happened. What did it make you learn about yourself, or about your needs and boundaries? Not only did you survive the incident, perhaps you grew from it. Begin to picture your life without holding on to that anger and hurt. Would it feel lighter? Would you feel more content within? The health of your heart and mind should belong to you. If you give it in someone else’s hand, what are your chances of peaceful survival?
3. Forgive yourself and let go.
Forgiveness starts from within. You were not the reason that someone hurt you. It’s not your fault. You need to forgive yourself first before you have the capacity to forgive others. Only then are you able to let go of the negative emotions associated with the hurt caused by someone else.
4. See the other side of the coin
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try to understand from their point of view why they hurt you. Maybe they’re going through something you don’t know about. Was it a misunderstanding?
Try to visualise the situation or event objectively, taking your emotions out of the picture for a second. What happened? Can you see both sides?
Think back to times when you’ve made a mistake, or made someone feel bad, and they forgave you. We’re all human.
To say I’m sorry is to say that I did something wrong. For some people, admitting that they did something wrong is not possible, even when they know it was wrong, and even when they feel bad about doing it. This never-sorry person can actually be sorry and still refuse to utter the words that would both acknowledge their remorse and right their wrong. To be able to admit that we’ve done something wrong requires a certain level of self-esteem or ego strength.
People who are deeply insecure can find it challenging to say I’m sorry in part because they think that a single mistake has the power to obliterate their self-worth. The idea that they could make a mistake and still be a valuable and good person is unthinkable for someone whose self-esteem is severely lacking. And then there are those who refuse to say I’m sorry because they lack empathy.
So think about the other person. Where is he or she coming from? He or she is flawed because all human beings are! When you were hurt, the other person was trying to have a need met.
Find meaning in your suffering
When we suffer a great deal, it is important that we find meaning in what we have endured. Without seeing meaning, a person can lose a sense of purpose, which can lead to hopelessness and a despairing conclusion that there is no meaning to life itself. That doesn’t mean we look for suffering in order to grow or try to find goodness in another’s bad actions. Instead, we try to see how our suffering has changed us in a positive way.
5. Move On to the Next Act
Your past history and all of your hurts are no longer here in your physical reality. Don’t allow them to be here in your mind, muddying your present moments. Your life is like a play with several acts. Some of the characters who enter have short roles to play, others, much larger. Some are villains and others are good guys. But all of them are necessary, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the play. Embrace them all, and move on to the next act.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting
Baked into our culture is the notion of “forgive and forget,” the idea that in order to forgive we need to forget the wrongs done to us.
This is absurd.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be able to forget a serious wrong committed against.
If your bar for achieving forgiveness is elimination from memory, you’re setting yourself up for chronic frustration and even guilt since it’s simply not biologically or psychologically possible.
Forgiveness does not mean endorsement
Many people who struggle with forgiveness have been given the advice that they need to “accept” what’s happened and move on. The problem is, terms like “acceptance” are fuzzy and mean different things to different people.
Many people hear the word “accept” and assume that it implies endorsement, that you’re somehow okay with what happened or justifying it.
But acceptance does not mean endorsement or justification. Many people who are victims of an injustice are further victimized by being manipulated into thinking and believing that they were somehow at fault for the bad thing that happened to them.
Acceptance means acknowledging that you don’t have power or control over the past.
You can accept an offense against you without excusing it.
6. Don’t Go to Sleep Angry
Each night as I go to sleep, I adamantly refuse to use this precious time to review anything that I do not want to be reinforced in the hours of being immersed in my subconscious mind. I choose to only think of the good of the day. I reiterate my I ams, which I have placed in my imagination, and I remember that my slumber will be dominated by my last waking concept of myself. I am love, I am content, I am peaceful, and I attract only to myself those who are in alignment with my highest ideals of myself.
Holding a grudge is like drinking poison yourself and hoping the other person gets affected by it. It feels like carrying a heavy burden of negativity & feelings of resentment. The problem with grudges, besides the fact that they are a drag to carry around is that they don’t serve the purpose that they are there to serve. They don’t make us feel better or heal our hurt.
At the end of the day, we end up as proud owners of our grudges but still without the experience of comfort that we ultimately crave, that we have craved since the original wounding. We turn our grudge into an object and hold it out at arm’s length as a proof of what we have suffered, a way to remind others and ourselves of our pain and deserving-ness.
7. Breathe in compassion.
Let compassion flow, one breath at a time. First, with yourself, then for the person who hurt you. You need to empathize with that person’s motivations, emotions, and circumstances. You need to challenge yourself to put yourself in that person’s shoes and view the situation from their perspective.
You can show love in small ways in everyday encounters—like smiling at a harried grocery cashier or taking time to listen to a child. Giving love when it’s unnecessary helps to build the love muscle, making it easier to show compassion toward everyone. If you practice small acts of forgiveness and mercy—extending care when someone harms you—in everyday life, this too will help. Perhaps you can refrain from honking when someone cuts you off in traffic, or hold your tongue when your spouse snaps at you and extend a hug instead.
Sometimes pride and power can weaken your efforts to forgive by making you feel entitled and inflated, so that you hang onto your resentment as a noble cause.
Forgiveness is not one decision
Forgiveness begins with a single resolution,but it does not end there.
Despite how many stories you hear about the “moment of forgiveness,” realize that forgiveness is a process, a journey.
A firm decision and commitment to forgive is an important first step, but be realistic about the fact that it is just that the first step. There’s likely to be many more steps along the road to forgiveness:
You will continue to see that relative you had the spat with at future family gatherings.
Memories of your trauma will pop into mind from time to time.
One decision to forgive is not enough. Be prepared to continue to forgive, day in and day out. And while it may get easier with time, forgiveness is forever.
8. Be grateful.
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways to empower personal growth, both for the forgiver and the forgiven. When you let go of the burden of the hurt and all the negative energy of the emotions associated with the hurt, you are given the peace and freedom to live as a better version of yourself. You’re also empowered to transfer that positive energy to people around you, so that they can become better versions of themselves. Gratitude is a must.