Let’s be real — when someone wrongs us, we have a hard time letting it go. It is part of human nature to want to hold onto bitterness. Usually when we have difficulty letting something go, it’s because the person who hurt us was loved and trusted. Feelings of betrayal, neglect, and shame leave us confused and angry. And dwelling on past hurt harbors resentment, vengeance, and hostility.
Forgiveness Isn’t Easy
Most of the time, holding grudges feels like the best way to protect ourselves from future hurt. Forgiveness is typically perceived as weak. However, holding things against people who have caused hurt does not give you power. Sure, it may cause the person you are mad at to be upset that you refuse to forgive them. But in the end it becomes a mental and emotional toxin for the person holding the grudge.
This isn’t to say that anyone’s pain is invalid. People who have been deeply (or mildly) hurt are allowed to be angry, bitter, sad, etc. But staying angry about anything for an extended amount of time can have harsh effects on our health in the long run. Being unforgiving can take a toll on future relationships and/or cause anxiety and depression. It may also throw off your ability to have empathy, which is an important piece of stable relationships.
Taking Care of Yourself
Think of forgiveness as self care. Making peace with the situation and/or person is the best thing you can do for your present and future self. Things like broken trust or harsh treatment may not feel like things that should be forgiven — and it is okay to forgive on your own time. You deserve to move on from what happened to you. You deserve peace, and the relief that comes with realizing that what happened is in the past.
Now, let’s make one thing clear: just because someone has your forgiveness does not mean that they have a free pass to stay in your life if you want to let them go. Forgiveness is simply letting it go and not seeking revenge anymore. Revenge meaning physical revenge, or possibly spreading negativity about that person.
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You will never go closer to the edge of unconditional love than the moment you decide to forgive someone who doesn't ask to be forgiven and doesn't make an effort to repair. This is a challenging equation for the mind/heart… because we have created the idea in our culture/society that unless someone is sorry, why the fuck should we care? We have been sent the message of "an eye for an eye". We hear stories of lifelong grudges and pain held close to our hearts. • Strength is releasing the shackles we've placed on ourselves to prove to someone else how much they've hurt us. Do they lose sleep at night watching our struggle? Do they suffer from hearing of our suffering? No. And when the answer is "no", we want to hold on tighter. We want to fuck up our lives so much that they'll finally see the price of their betrayal. • The math is odd here – but let's break it down – We suffer to prove to people (who aren't paying attention) how much suffering they have caused – which we choose to continue to prove our point. • It's an endless cycle with no winners. Want to get the ultimate revenge? Love them. Forgive them. Not for them, but for you… so you don't have to live in a story that doesn't have to be true anymore. Sometimes the greatest lesson we can learn from our greatest pain providers is that our self worth and our feelings are not dependent on another. That our story is ours to write – we're not the actor in someone else's. We don't often get a choice in being hurt, but we do get a choice in what we do with our hurt. • If you want to release the hurt of the past, my Breakup Recovery is designed to support you to do exactly that. It is 5 weeks with daily content and exercises to clear and release the pain of heartbreak, whether it's a new breakup or lingering from years ago, I got you. Click the link in my bio ❤️ #createthelove
Difficulty with Inner Reconciliation
If you are unsure of how to start the road to forgiveness, here are some tips:
- Recognize why forgiving this specific person will enhance your life.
- Check in with yourself and notice the parts of you that need healing. Pay attention to the ways these unhealed parts affect your words and decisions.
- Attempt to humanize the person in your head and practice empathy. This may be extremely difficult, but this challenge can be a growing experience.
- If you have access to certain resources, consider counseling or therapy.
Like I said before, this is not easy. If you are still finding it difficult to let something go, consider what you might have done if you were in their situation. Do you think you might have acted differently than they did? Maybe you would have, but it’s worth it to consider otherwise. Through it all, keep in mind that forgiving someone is a process. Nothing is resolved overnight. In reality, it may not even be solved within a year. Every single day can be a step toward newness and love.
The worst part about forgiveness is that the person may not change. Worst case scenario, they continue to act the same and cause more hurt. Unfortunately, we can not change people; it is their own personal choice. Placing the focus on your own peace and healing is step one. After that, if you choose to confront that person or talk to them about what happened, it may be beneficial and help them realize their character flaws.
But the best part about forgiveness is that whatever happened no longer has a grip on you. And who doesn’t love the liberating feeling of letting go?
Also published on Medium.