The truth is, if you go through life, you are going to be hurt, at some point, by the words or actions of a friend, colleague, parent, sibling, or even stranger. When you are hurt by someone you love and trust you become bitter, resentful, and angry. Forgiveness is a commitment to change, move on, and be happy. By choosing to forgive, you embrace tranquility, joy, and gratitude. Forgiveness brings the peace you need to go on with your life. It is a sign of strength, not a weakness, and a long, deep process of the heart that purifies and releases.
You cannot go on with your life if you keep looking back. You cannot be the best version of yourself if you carry with you the burden of a bitter, angry, resentful soul. When you hold a grudge against someone, you allow a stressful situation to poison your life, which in turn makes you more susceptible to diseases, especially heart disease. You can’t enjoy the present and any of your relationships. You are so wrapped up in the pain that you become depressed and feel like your life lacks meaning and purpose.
When you forgive you let go all the negative feelings and thoughts, and the stress that comes with them. You resolve to never let that happen again, you stop thinking about the person and situation, and focus on what really matters. You can relax, start sleeping better, and improve your relationships with the people around you. You gain respect and admiration and you become a better person. You prove to yourself and to anyone around you that you have the power to control your life, and that you choose not to be a victim of your own feelings. In fact, forgiving someone that hurt you is a gift you give to yourself.
Here are 4 simple but essential steps to forgiveness:
1. Accept and allow yourself to feel the pain. If you feel anger, humiliation, shame, guilt, and rage, let yourself feel the feeling. Don’t repress it. Don’t deny it. When you repress these feelings, you allow them to stick with you and you carry the pain of the betrayal with you. Everything you do from that point on is born from pain and anger. You see the world not as it really is, but through a filter of repressed pain, as you are inside. Allow yourself to feel the pain by talking to someone or writing in a journal, and release the negative emotions so you can think and feel clearly.
2. Understand the person that wronged you. Think about their past, their upbringing, past experiences, or present circumstances. You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. We all react according to our own reality, and if you just happen to be around someone with a wrong perception of reality, then they will attack you because they truly believe that you are wrong and you deserve to be attacked. That is the best they can do. They are stuck in their own pain.
3. Intentionally choose to forgive the person when you are ready. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone what happened in the past. It doesn’t mean the other person is right or that you absolve them from their responsibility. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or even reconciling with the person who hurt you. It just means that you choose to change your own attitude toward the hurt so that it doesn’t continue to wound you, and peacefully move on with your life. You don’t forgive someone because they deserve it, but because you deserve to be happy. Even if you feel hard to forgive someone who betrayed you, understand that it’s easier to forgive than to walk around carrying the burden of a resentful soul. As Carrie Fisher said: “Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
4. Move on and let go of grudges. Let it go. Release the sadness and the pain and stop living in the past. Don’t let your life be defined by how you’ve been hurt. Don’t allow rage and shame to control your life. Don’t dwell on feelings of guilt, frustration, blame or regret, or obsess over your pain. Remember that if you dwell on the negative, you become negative toward everything around you. So choose to respond positively to what you encounter. Focus on your future. Put everything behind you and redirect your energy toward taking care of yourself in the future. Surround yourself with people who care about you, reconnect with your meaningful moments, and focus on all the things you are grateful for.
Learn to forgive so that you can be happy. In the end, forgiveness is not about the people that hurt you. It is about your healing, your strength, and your happiness.
Do you find it easy to forgive? How do you forgive even when it feels impossible? Let me know in the comments below.
For more tools and resources on happiness check out my Resources page.