Learn to forgive: How?

Learn to forgive How

When you have been hurt very deeply, it can be difficult to forgive. You may have suffered a loss, or a relationship breakdown, and you feel bitter and angry. The truth is however, that real forgiveness can help you heal from grief and depression when bad things have happened to you - or to someone you love. You may well want to learn to forgive, but you’re struggling. Our tips may help you, or at least set you on the right path.

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is the act of letting go of a grievance or judgment you are holding against another person. Forgiveness allows you to let go feelings of bitterness, resentment, and vengeance. It is entirely for your own benefit.

What forgiveness isn’t

When you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean you pardon or excuse their behaviour which may have been illegal, criminal or immoral. Forgiveness does not involve you making excuses for the other person. You don’t have to tell the other person you forgive them either – forgiveness is a private affair. Forgiving someone won’t mean that you never think about what happened, it will always be something that was important to you -something that mattered. You never forgive for the sake of another person. Forgiveness is something you do for you because you love, honour and respect yourself.

What happens if you don’t forgive?

If you don’t forgive, you may experience a wide range of emotions that hold you back or down. You may feel oppressed or depressed. Your emotions can include anger, bitterness and hate. Sometimes these emotions can trigger physical symptoms, such as upset stomachs, anxiety, depression, or high blood pressure for example.

Tips to help you forgive

  • Recognise your anger. Anger can fill you with adrenaline, and adrenaline is addictive. You may struggle to let go of your ‘fix’.
  • Once you recognise the anger, you need to work on it. Express it and release it. Only when the anger has gone, can you truly forgive.
  • Take time to reflect of the situation that has caused you such pain.
  • Accept that it happened.
  • Acknowledge how you feel or felt. Give weight to your feelings.
  • Think about how you reacted.
  • Now think about the ways in which you have changed and developed as a person since that time. What did you learn. Has that been useful? Acknowledge you are a survivor. Have you withdrawn the boundaries of your life? Can that thing ever happen to you again?
  • What about the other person? Are they flawed and imperfect? What was their need when they hurt you? Why do you think they did it?
  • Consider whether you want to tell the other person that you forgive them or not. If you want to do so, then tell them. If you don’t, then choose how you acknowledge your forgiveness. You could say it out loud if you wish, or you could write a letter. No-one needs to read the letter. You can hide it or destroy it.

This is simplistic of course. It may take you a long time to get over what hurt you. Each of these steps may take weeks or months. It is an individual journey that you have to work through in your own time. You will always remember what happened, but hopefully you will be able to move on in a positive and life-affirming way.

Do it for yourself

It is said that a life well lived is your best revenge. You can choose how you react to something or someone that has wounded you deeply, by turning to the light and looking only for the good. Find the love, beauty and kindness around you. Don’t act on your anger. Don’t turn into a person you are not.

Sometimes, forgiveness becomes easier with the passing of time. You may not be ready to forgive yet, but in ten days, ten months, or ten years you might be.

Tom VermeerschCreated by Tom Vermeersch Tom Vermeersch is a certified Psychologist and Bach flower expert with more than 30 years of experience.

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