We have all been there. We have all been deeply hurt by someone we care about. It is a painful experience. That hurt fertilizes feelings of hatred, resentment, revenge, and bitterness. It feels like you are consumed from within, like you are shackled in emotional chains. For a moment, you think about crafting a plan to counterattack, but deep within, you want to let go. You just want to move on with your life. But how can you do that? By incorporating these powerful lessons of life. But first, you must understand what forgiveness is.
What is Forgiveness?
One definition of forgiveness is, “the deliberate decision to let go of feelings of resentment, vengeance and bitterness towards a person even if they don’t deserve it.”
A great way to understand what forgiveness IS and incorporate these great lessons of life is to learn what forgiveness is NOT.
– Forgiveness does not mean forgetting
– Forgiveness does not mean it was not painful
– Forgiveness does not mean you will pick up your life or relationship exactly where you left it. Going forward, your life or relationship with the person is going to be different, but the whole point is being able to go forward.
– Forgiveness does not mean you stop believing they were at fault – they still are. It might be their fault you feel this way, but it is your responsibility to feel better.
– Forgiveness does not mean they get to stroll back into your life.
How to Forgive
Forgiveness can be delicate to manoeuvre, and even though its benefits are worth giving it a try, you might still need a good strategy to get through it:
- Try to isolate the action
If you give it some thought, you might come to the realization that there are not too many sadists in the world. Most of us tend to do bad things when we are exposed to the wrong information or dreadful situations that have the potential to bring out the worse in us – and sometimes, we just let our emotions do the thinking for us. This is not about trying to make something bad seem less noxious, it is about trying to separate the wrongdoing from the wrongdoer.
- Try to understand their “whys” and empathize
Why did that person hurt you? What was their motivation? Again, it is good to start from the basis that there are relatively few outright bad people. Most people tend to do hurtful things because they are hurt themselves, or in some cases, are just seeking your attention. For example, someone becoming a bully because they were abused in their childhood, or an adolescent doing drugs to get their parent’s attention.
Note that these are not excuses, they are explanations that might help you empathize and ultimately give you the strength to forgive the person. Empathizing is probably going to be the most difficult step because it is about you “walking in their shoes”; and trying to carry the pain they are carrying, but it is also the most important step.
- Set boundaries and unshackle emotional chains
Once you are able to empathize with the person, it is important for you to set boundaries that include you asking yourself what role they should play in your life, or even if they should have a role to play in the first place. This process is easiest when the wrongdoer is a stranger, and most difficult when it is a close friend, intimate partner, or family member. But these boundaries are important because they will protect your mental health in the future.
The final step is to let go. Let the pain, feelings of revenge, resentment and hatred subside. This is often a gradual process, depending on the depth of the wound. These emotions might still arise when you are around the person, but they will go eventually.
It is important to implement these important lessons of life in order to protect our emotional well-being. However, it takes practice. Just as you need to exercise and grow your muscles to improve your physical health, you need to practice and grow the forgiveness muscle to improve your mental health.