Alright friends, it’s time to dig deep. Ask yourself this question: Are you angry with someone in your life right now? Why?
Living with anger and forgiveness can be a truly damaging thing to our emotional health and well-being. It can be incredibly difficult to be at peace when someone we love has harmed us; we feel betrayed, broken down and often very, very far from wanting to ever see them again.
This is never a good place to be.
Why is forgiveness so difficult? Because for many of us, revenge or vindication feels much more just. Most people have a tendency to punish those who’ve hurt us, sometimes directly (hurling back insults with vengeance or taking offensive action) or more passive aggressively (giving people the silent treatment, wallowing, giving glaring looks, gossiping). And in the end, are we better for it? Usually not.
Forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s a decision that we make with a clear mind and a settled heart, with the full intent to let go.
So what does real forgiveness look like? And how can we free ourselves from the burden of hurt?
Step 1: Name the issue. One of the most important things you can do as you process an offense is to name the issue in your heart, to its full extent. What happened? What specific actions harmed you? Why? Is there a reason this struck a chord? Get to the core of the issue to the best of your ability.
Step 2: Name your fear. Once you’ve named the issue and identified the real reasons you were hurt by it, identify the barriers you are facing to forgiveness. Are you afraid that by forgiving this person, you open yourself up to hurt again? Do you worry that forgiveness is vulnerable?
Step 3: Choose compassion and courage. We have amazing control over our own wills. Make the conscious decision to choose compassion and courage over bitterness. Even when every fiber of your being resists, choose to be the bigger person. Remind yourself that everyone is human, no one is perfect, and think about how you’d feel if you needed someone to forgive you.
Step 4: Surrender your hurt. It takes much less energy to let go and forgive than it does to stay bitter. Do not dwell on what happened, but open your heart instead. To truly surrender, make these four promises to yourself and others who can hold you accountable: “I will not dwell on this pain,” “I will not use this incident against you in the future,” “I will not gossip with others about this issue” and “I will not let this incident stand between us.”
Step 5: Set a pattern of love. Try your very best to do right by the other person. Send them smiles, treat them with kindness and turn the relationship around, if appropriate. Almost every situation can be mended with love and attention. If the person you feel hurt by is a toxic person, it’s okay for that extra love and attention to go right back to you.