When it comes to people who have hurt you, just coming to terms with the hurt makes it seem impossible for you to ever be able to forgive them. It’s a natural human response – avoid the person that hurt you so you don’t get hurt again. The difference with emotional pain, however, is that the effects linger much longer and can actually hang around forever if you are unable to forgive.
See, harboring the anger does nothing more than open the wound time and time again. Many experts agree that forgiving someone, including yourself, for past mistakes is a very necessary part of maintaining emotional health. These experts do acknowledge that the process is difficult and may take a significant amount of time, but there are a few tips you can apply to kickstart the journey to a happier you.
Consider why the person did what they did
Isn’t it awful when you had good intentions but the results were actually disastrous? Take for example when you are trying to criticize someone constructively, with the intention of improving their work. And then they take it really badly…
We often judge ourselves on our intentions, but others on their actions. Imagine for a second that you were in the other person’s situation. Would you have done the same thing? If not, was their intention really aimed toward hurting you?
Sometimes people just make mistakes and can end up hurting you, even if they had no intention of doing so. Take some time to think about the situation from different points of view, and you might just find a new perspective that makes forgiving easier.
Let go of the need for retribution
The two biggest hurdles that people face when struggling with forgiveness are waiting for the person to apologize and dealing with the idea of an unmitigated injustice. The truth is that sometimes people don’t even know that they’ve hurt you, so they’re never going to apologize. Sometimes they are just stubborn.
But resenting someone for something they’ve done is not keeping them in any sort of prison. Let’s be honest – it barely affects them! It’s keeping yourself in an emotional prison for something someone else has done – and that doesn’t make sense. Once you can come to terms with the idea that there may be no apology or moral restoration, and that you still need to let yourself free from unforgiveness, you’re well on your way to forgiveness.
Make the decision
Forgiveness is not something that just happens. Sure, time will heal the wounds and make it easier to forgive, but if you never start the process, not even 50 years will heal the bottled-up emotions. So say it out loud to yourself, “I am forgiving this person”. Notice that “forgiving” is an ongoing tense, because it really is a process. It requires a daily commitment to let go of those negative feelings.
Prepare for the future
One of the biggest misconceptions is that to forgive someone is to forget their actions. Not at all. Forgiveness is letting go of the anger caused by their actions and giving up the need for moral retribution. That doesn’t include forgetting their actions. If someone hurts you really badly, it might serve you well to avoid them in the future. So, when you think of them, the thoughts center around logic and self-preservation rather than anger or hurt.