Have you ever had someone do or say something to you that hurt your feelings or upset you? For the small things, most of us are good at saying “no problem” or “that’s okay.” But when you are hurt deeply by someone you care about or treated unfairly by a stranger, forgiveness can be very difficult. In fact, genuine forgiveness could possibly be one of the hardest things to achieve.
Why is it so hard to forgive?
Often it feels unfair to forgive. You may feel this way after a break up with a boyfriend. “He hurt me deeply,” says Linda, whose boyfriend left her for another woman after four years of dating. “It was like he was getting away with it. He was rebuilding his life while I was still reeling. I felt that if I would forgive him, I would be letting him getting away with it.”
Like Linda, we often don’t want to forgive. Instead of forgiving and forgetting, we often secretly want to get even.
Why is it important to forgive?
Healing cannot begin without forgiveness. As difficult as it can be, it is very important to find forgiveness in your life. Forgiveness serves to cleanse guilt and can help you to rebuild relationships with family, friends and even strangers. If you don’t forgive, it can cause you sleeplessness, consume your thoughts, or cause emotional and physical discomfort, such as stress, indigestion and anger. Often, the only person really hurt by your lack of forgiveness is you. Forgiveness is often the only way to free yourself from negative emotions. You need to forgive and to be forgiven so that you can finally feel at peace.
How to forgive
Forgiveness is a decision you make when you realize that you are causing damage to yourself. Once you make that decision, it takes time to release the resentment, anger and rage you have held onto. That’s why most people forgive slowly. You may find yourself taking three steps forward, then one step back.
“I had worked very hard to forgive my ex-fiancé,” says Patricia. “But on bad days when I am lonely, I feel so angry at him. It makes it hard to start new relationships and sometimes I take my anger out on other people. But I just tell myself that I am better off now and, eventually, the feeling passes.”
There are several things you can do to work through the feelings that will help you find forgiveness:
1. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. Forgiveness becomes easier when you realize that no one is perfect.
2. Empathize. Empathy is an important tool to help you identify with the person who has done you wrong. Try to put yourself in his or her place. Try to understand why they did what they did. This will help you to forgive them and move on with your life.
3. Share your feelings with a friend. Talking out the pain is part of the process of forgiving. If you feel that you are wearing your friends out, seek professional help from a counselor.
4. Let go. Understand that there are many things in life you can’t control, including the actions of others. Once you do this, you can begin to heal.
You will find that when you forgive someone, it lightens your load and frees you from negative emotions. Forgiveness is as much for you as it is for the person you forgive.