Forgiveness: How to do it Even When it Feels Impossible
Have you ever gotten in a fight and felt you couldn’t forgive the other person? Does it often take you a full day to get over things? A week? A month? Or, even a year or longer? Ever notice the sharp pain of anger that festers in you when you are unable to forgive? It doesn’t mean that forgiveness is easy. On the contrary, it is quite the opposite. Forgiveness is one of those emotions that is often easier said than done. Often we let it fester and dig deep in the crevices of our hearts before releasing the anger all together. It is very difficult to admit to the other person involved that you forgive them, but once you do, it serves you both.
Whether it was a spouse who was unlawful or someone who told your deepest secrets to many other people. At some point in life, we all must reach a point and make a decision. The decision to forgive them, or not to. The important thing about forgiveness is the fact that it is not just for them. Forgiveness is actually more for you. Forgiveness comes in many different forms and can be written, said, or felt. It is most important to note by forgiving someone else, you actually help yourself. You release all that harbored anger and resentment. Finally, you feel free from the pain, free from the anger, and free from the hurt.
Healing yourself is the ultimate goal of any personal development. It all starts with the self. Whatever you put your attention and energy towards you receive back. If you focus on the anger towards others, you feel anger within yourself. If you focus on forgiveness towards others, you feel forgiveness within. In actively forgiving yourself and others, you heal yourself from past pain, judgment, grief, and fear. While this may sound too good to be true, it does not mean that it comes easy. Forgiveness can feel utterly impossible sometimes. We understand that and hope to offer some suggestions for you to try. First, it is crucial to identify all the things that forgiveness is not to fully understand what forgiveness is.
Forgiveness is not excusing the other person’s actions or pardoning what they have done to you
It does not mean you have to include the other person in your life from here on out
Forgiveness does not mean you cannot have any other emotions or feelings about the situation
It does not mean everything is automatically okay between you and the other person involved
Forgiveness does not mean you have to verbally say to the other person that they are forgiven
It does not mean that you and your partner have everything figured out and will not need to forgive each other again. Because, let’s be honest, you probably will.
Forgiveness does not mean anything is forgotten
Lastly, forgiveness is for you, not for them.
Essentially, forgiveness only happens when you are ready. You can find forgiveness when you decide to come to terms with the situation at hand. Also when you are willing and able to live in a state of resolution. This hardly ever comes easy and often, it takes time and lots of patience. Remember though, forgiveness does not even have to involve the person who wronged you. Forgiveness can happen all on its own within you. Because it is for you and helps heal you at your core, rather than healing anyone else.
So, maybe you are at that point in time when you feel ready. You are finally willing to heal yourself, to find forgiveness and forgive. But you feel stuck. How do you forgive someone who did something so awful to you? How do you let go of this fierce anger that you held onto for such an incredibly long time? Have no fear. We are here to walk you through the road to forgiveness in 5 steps.
1. Make the decision to let it go. Forgiveness does not just happen by itself.
The literal act of letting go takes work. It takes intention and focus and real, hard work. The first step in letting go of something that hurt and caused you pain, is deciding that you actually want to let it go. Things don’t disappear all by themselves. There are decisions and choices to be made to rev up the engine of forgiveness and get the ball rolling. You have to be ready and you have to be willing. You have to make the choice for yourself that you are going to let the situation pass. Finally, you are going to choose to put in the necessary work to find forgiveness. This choice actively enables you to start the healing process within. The important takeaway here is acknowledging that you have a choice. You can choose to either, let the situation hurt you for years and feel pain every time the other person’s name pops into your head. Or, you can choose to let it go and live without all that negativity. The choice is yours.
2. Express your pain, and your responsibility
You owe it to yourself to be vulnerable. Allow yourself to feel every single emotion and let each one run its course through you. This can mean writing down every reason why you don’t want to forgive this person and letting it out on paper. Or, it could mean expressing yourself by crying for an hour with a friend, or a favorite TV show. Both tactics help soothe you when you need it most. You might even try writing a letter to the person you are mad at. You can then make the choice to give it to them without the expectation of receiving a response. Or, you could burn the letter and let it go that way. The important thing here is to express all that you need to express in a way that feels right for you.
Additionally, the act of writing is an excellent exercise in reflection and realization. It is important to note that not all situations are one-sided. Often there are reasons why people do hurtful things. Writing these complex details down might offer some insight into the other person’s perspective. You might acknowledge you had some impact in their choice of behavior. In that sense, this is a perfect way for you to see the situation from both sides and recognize your part in the other person’s life as well. What could you have done differently? Notice these things as they come up and still stay true to the choice you made before to “let it all go.”
3. Shift from a Victim Mindset to an Empowered Mindset
As humans, we often find it easier to exist in a victim mentality. We love to point the finger and blame things outside our own circle of influence. But what good does this ultimately do? Does it allow you to play an active role in your own life? Or, does it simply make you a hopeless, passive, victim in life’s undeterminable fate? Our guess is that, contrary to popular blame belief, you actually want to play an active role in your life. Furthermore, you actually want to start feeling better about the situation, not worse. So, that said, it is best to start becoming responsible for what you can change and stop focusing and ruminating over what you cannot. You have the choice to heal, to let go, and to forgive. You can change yourself and only yourself so let’s start there. Make the active choice to take control of your own happiness. Do not let other people dictate whether you feel good or lousy at any given moment. Start to realize that you can only change you and your reactions to behaviors. You can even choose to not let it bother you in the first place. Why not start becoming more mindful about these big life-altering decisions? Why not choose to work towards forgiveness?
4. Focus on the present, live in the here and now. And focus on the joy.
Stop reliving every detail of the situation that wronged you. This will only make you feel worse. It is unhelpful to repeat the situation over and over in your head. Replaying an image of yourself acting like the helpless victim while everything and everyone else is to blame only hurts you in the long run. Chances are that is not entirely truthful. The truth is, you cannot undo what has been done. You cannot change what other people feel, act, say, or do. You can only change yourself. Therefore, you should start by focusing on the present and the joys you feel in the here and now. Remember, your brain and your focus only has so much room. Why bring up the past when you can do nothing about it and cloud your brain with negative thoughts? Try this instead. When you feel yourself going over something that hurt you in the past, try saying to yourself, “That is ok, that was in the past. This cannot hurt me anymore. I choose to focus on my own happiness and will do so by doing ______.” This gives you agency to take control of your own life and your future. Simultaneously, it allows you to focus on what might bring you joy in the present as well as in the future.
5. Forgive them, and you forgive yourself.
We do not have to forget what hurt us. It does however, help change the world as well as ourselves for the better if we choose to let it go. Especially if we offer forgiveness and make room for joy in our lives. Remember, forgiveness is not excusing the hurtful behavior. But rather, it is a way to offer compassion and understanding towards a complex situation. It allows you to see things from another point of view and empathizing with the other person. Additionally, it is a way of tangibly letting something go that is otherwise holding you back or keeping you down. You deserve to open the doors and invite love and joy back in your life. Forgiveness allows you to do that again. Ultimately, it is amazingly difficult to let go of past pain. However, holding onto past pain only makes you suffer more. That pain gets brought to every future relationship and encounter. It fogs your brain, hinders your focus, and makes it harder and harder to move forward in you life. Only you have the choice to decide to let things go and move through life with less stress and more love. So make the decision today, choose joy, let go of the pain, and forgive others so you can live for you again.
Please note that this content is for informational purposes, and not a substitute for treatment. If you are in need of mental health treatment, please seek out a provider in your area.