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Do You Know How to Really Forgive Someone?

The Problem with Not Forgiving

Most people have at least one person in their life that they harbor anger against for some reason or another. For some the anger is due to a serious hurt, whether physical or emotional, such as assault or abuse. For others the anger stems from less important issues, but the anger is just as real and just as debilitating. For instance the resentment that can build up in a relationship over many years over many small and large differences. For some, maybe it is a co-worker that angers you, they ask too much of you, they sabotage you, or they just annoy you.

Why do we hold onto anger? At it’s root, it’s because we want to hurt that person back. The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t hurt the intended. It only hurts us. Think about it. Can you be happy when you are angry? Have you ever noticed that you have more accidents the more angry you are? So how do you get rid of this anger? By forgiving.

The Problem with Forgiving

If forgiving is the answer to releasing your anger, why don’t we do it? Well, because forgiving someone is hard! Another reason is that we don’t know how to do it properly. And then there is the fear that by forgiving someone we are inviting them to hurt us again or that we are saying what they did was ok.

How to Really Forgive Someone

1)Examine Your Anger – Take some time to understand your anger. It’s easy to say, “Well I just hate that person” or “That person drives me crazy.” For some the reason for the anger is very clear as in the case of assault, for instance. But other times, the root of our anger is not so clear. Why does this person “bug you?” Why do you get angry at your boss? Why do you flip out when your spouse parks the car “the wrong way.” The reason it is important to understand your anger is that if you identify clearly what the root is, then you can go about finding a possible solution. This doesn’t work in all cases. But try this first anyway. Then ask yourself what can YOU do to make the situation better? If it’s about trying to change a person, the only way to really impact a person is to love them, praise them and continually discover and focus on the good in that person. This takes time, but try it!! It really works. If it’s an intolerable situation and you can’t ignore it, find a way to not be around this person.

2) “Thank You for This Experience.”
Have you ever noticed how good can spring up from bad experiences? Just like after a forest fire the first thing you see is lots of little green plants starting to grow. What did you learn about your inner strength from your negative experience? What did you learn about yourself that has made you a stronger person? This doesn’t make wrongs against you right. But it puts you back in the position of power, not victimhood. Remember, you have survived. Build on that! And little by little explore where you see small bits of green sprouting up in your life. Focus on that, have gratitude for that good, and you will be in the process of forgiving.

3) Relationship Resentment -Let it Go: Advice from the book “Follow Your Heart” by Andrew Matthews (one of my favorite books) is brilliant. In his book he talks about how we make up rules for how others should behave. If they don’t behave that way, we make them “guilty” and we hold a grudge. But does it change the situation? No. All it does it “ruin our lives!” He uses humor to make a good point, “When a seagull craps on your head, do you resent the seagull?” Do you resent the weather when it rains? So why resent people?

Whatever the “guilty party” got wrong, it is history. The question is, “Do you want your life to work or don’t you.” And he also takes on the hard situations too. For instance, he a friend who found forgiveness after having his 3 teenage daughters murdered. It wasn’t easy, but in the end he realized that only he had control over how he moved forward with his life. He didn’t want his life to be miserable so he “let go of anger” for his “own sake and his own survival.”

4) Meditate on Compassion: Imagine your antagonist as a baby. What has been their life? Why do they act in ways that hurt you or others? If you can find a small place of compassion, of understanding, then perhaps in seeing them as a victim of their circumstances, you may find a place of peace about what happened. Buddhism says: “for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all.”  Buddhism urges us to focus on loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity as “a means for avoiding resentment in the first place.”

The Dalia Lama lives a life of forgiveness in action. The book, “The Wisdom of Forgiveness” gives an account his life in this regard. Again this doesn’t make crimes committed right. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily befriend a person who hurt you or that you should take your guard down in protecting yourself from a dangerous person. But if you can find a place where you can wish for their healing, you will find your own healing. If this doesn’t work, move onto #5.

5) Turn it over to God: Put your trust in God that God will take care of this situation in the long run. God will provide you strength. God will bring justice in the end. And hopefully God will heal the offender too. Take comfort in God’s love for you. If you have trouble understanding “why God let’s bad things happen” take a look at my post on Christianity and scroll down to the heading “Why Do We Have to Suffer.”

6) If you don’t believe in God, then at least know that in science all things eventually come to equilibrium. And so, turn it over to the universe. Turn it over to your friends’ and family’s love for you. Allow yourself to be comforted and strengthened by their love.

7) Write it Down. Take all these suggestions and journal about your feelings and then write down the answers to the questions: How will I forgive? What will I gain by forgiving? What is the good in all this? What have I learned? How will my life be better by forgiving?

What Have You Got to Lose? – Only Peace

Who are you holding resentment against? Who are you angry at? Who do you hate? Do you want release from this heavy yoke around your heart? Do you want peace and happiness? Try forgiveness… for your sake. Take it slow. It is a process. Over time you can watch your anger melt. The Dalai Lama is said to have the heart health of a 20 year old according to his doctors. Why is that? Perhaps it just might be that he holds no anger. Imagine what it could do for you!

Please share your comments, experiences, and tips on Forgiveness! All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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68 Responses to Do You Know How to Really Forgive Someone?

  1. Rachel January 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    @Monique- You say that “nothing can be done”. I have said that before, and I was invigorated to discover that I was badly mistaken. If you feel it impossible to embark on a path remotely close to forgiveness, it’s okay. I swear to you, time will do most of the work. Right now may be a difficult period, but each hour, day, and year will bring you strength and power; I can tell this because your presence on this page shows that you are seeking out a path of healing and forgiveness. I thoroughly believe in the phrase “ask and you shall receive”. If you are still trying to “save this” (I assume you are referring to a person) then you must find peace with this (person?). I have been catastrophically wronged before, and ironically it was in war that

    I came to a life changing realization: No one intentionally does harm to another, or acts out viciously, for no reason at all.

    I never thought I’d forgive terrorist, whom fully believe in their cause enough to take their own life! Then, I felt I had to understand or my anger and hurt would cripple me; My faith and spirit was dissipating as my hate grew. I had to reach and reach for understanding. I finally realized that these terrorist, as small children, witnessed unbelievable amounts of violence. Their upbringing, culture, and family all played key roles in the actions of these terrorist. This does not mean I am okay with their actions, but this understanding- empathy- frees me from hate and ill wishes.

    In every seemingly unforgivable situation or hurtful act lies reason. Sometimes deep, deep thought is necessary to understand why someone would do something that hurts me. Sometimes I can tell that actions were carried out when emotions were too high, or due to miscommunication, or more so due to conflicting perceptions. Sometimes the only reasoning to discover is that the person is mentally ill, in which case they know not what they do.

    I believe that in most cases, the one who brings hurt onto another truly “knows not what they do”…they may realize it after the fact, or after thoughtful effort. You on the other hand Monique are blessed to be who you are. From your post I can tell you are a caring person who wishes for a peaceful heart. Just remember, you are responsible for how you feel and how you choose to react.

    I may have said this before, but the fact that you ended up on this page -posting in this forum, shows that you are on the path of forgiveness. Although forgiveness is a personal, unique, and undefinable development that is never static…by seeking it you are already on the path. By questioning forgiveness, you are already on the path.

    I don’t know exactly how you feel or your situation, but I hope that blessings and greater things come your way soon, and that you find the answers that you have been looking for.

  2. Rachel January 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    @Talahi, thank you for the kind words. I hope you are doing better than well. Also, Thank you for contributing your personal experience to the forum.

    @agentsully, thank you for taking the time to write this insightful article and for responding to all of us that post here. It’s refreshing to see such a positive web site.

  3. Rachel January 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    @Aniangie, what agentsully said was right on. Clear the toxic relationships out of your life. You can build new friendships; actively seek out new friends. It may take time & effort…maybe even discomfort, but it is a better use of time than the time spent with someone who weakens your spirit. Imagine the relief and joy you will feel once she is no longer a part of your life -think of that if/when you struggle to cut this toxic tie.

  4. Rachel January 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    agentsully, I forgot to thank you for something you wrote that resonated with me. You wrote:

    “I think we have the opportunity to change people more effectively with kindness than with venom. (I know my initial reaction would probably be anger. It’s not easy to be kind in such situations.)”

    Your statement truly rang true once I reflected on my progression through forgiveness. I wondered what transformed my thinking from bitterness, anger, and near hatred – to – understanding, peace, compassion, and empathy? Although the process towards peace took time, I never thought I would come close to it. The positive actions of others, especially in the face of utter negativity, is what remained with me. To face hate with love takes a strong person. I can recall some remarkable situations (much like the monk story you mentioned) that I will never forget. Love is powerful.

    Thank you, again, for the powerful words. I meant to thank you a while back, but an unusually busy schedule got the best of me. Currently, I’m snowed in for the night (hence the flood of posts). I wasn’t initially happy about being stuck at home on a Friday night, but now I’m glad. I was forced to slow down. (funny how I initially felt “stuck” tonight, trapped at home…but instead I found that I am finally able to enjoy some “me” time…and your inspirational forum)

    • AgentSully January 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      @Rachel – Thank you so much for your contributions here and your encouragement for me and others! Wow! So helpful. I am blessed that you have joined in the conversation!

  5. aniangie January 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    thax for the advice ill keep it in mind

  6. Jolene January 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Today my co-worker deleted all of my photos from my phone while trying to upgrade my camera on my iPhone. I did not ask her to do this and your post helped me begin to make steps to try and forgive her. I am not a techie person so I am also mad at myself for not learning to back up the pictures.

    • AgentSully February 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      @Jolene – so sorry to hear that happened to you. Hopefully goodness in equal measure to what you lost will come to you. Wishing you all the best. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Shara March 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    I have read this article and I still have a hard time forgiving my 2 old best friends of over 7 years for who betrayed me and left me for dead. I blacked out so i don’t remember anything that happened I have dreams from that night that are blurry and wake up in a cold sweat. Their is only one person besides the 2 girls that know what happened that night because she was their but whenever i bring up the subject she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Its been over 5 years since that night and i still have the nightmares from that night all are different and i cant get any answers from why my 2 best friends hurt me. I have a huge trust issue where i shut everyone out I only have one friend because i just feel like im only going to get hurt and i feel that if i was blind to trust those girls i will only repeat the mistake and be blinded by others as well. I have tried so hard to forgive these girls but its to the point i cant even talk to anyone with the same name as them or i get angry and burst into tears. I moved far far away half way across the country just to get a new life started but i still find myself holding on to that anger and looking over my shoulder. I write down my feelings in a journal and try to look at the good in those people but i cant find any anymore. If anyone knows any good ways of forgiving people who have hurt you please tell me because most of the things i find has to do with spouses cheating and well it just isn’t helping me. I already tried to confront the person before I moved but they wont talk to me. I just want to let go of the anger I’m holding on to but I just don’t know how. Thank You….

    • AgentSully May 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      That sounds like a very difficult experience you had.

      So there’s two things here. There’s the blackout and the abandonment.

      When you said you blacked out, what caused that? Were you injured by someone, fall ill, or was it from alcohol/drugs? The reason I ask is that if it was from alcohol or drugs that you willingly took, then that is something you should avoid in the future. That is something you can have complete control over, and should make sure that you take ownership of that so that you don’t put yourself in that position again.

      Regarding the abandonment, that is difficult. I would think there are two important things to do.
      1. Release those girls and what they did. You can not change the past. This means releasing the desire for the past to be different. Instead let it be something from which you can learn. There is a lesson in every difficult thing we encounter. Ask yourself empowering questions about this experience. Empowering questions give you back your power.
      What can I take from this experience that will make me stronger?
      What can I learn from this experience that will help me in the future?

      2. Examine the friendships with those girls to see what you can avoid in the future to make better choices of friends.
      What kind of friends were they prior to this experience? Was there an equality in the friendship of giving and receiving?
      Were there signs before this incident that they wouldn’t stand by you through thick and thin?
      How did they treat others? Were they mean-spirited? That’s the kind of thing that they could turn on you in the future.

      You should definitely discuss this with someone who is a professional. They can help you work out strategies for choosing friends that will support you. Choosing friends who share your values, which you can see through their actions, is a good place to start with learning to trust again.

      Trust is difficult because at some point it requires a bit of a leap. If you are choosing friends who demonstrate the qualities you are looking for, then you will be on your way to finding good friends.

      Let me know how it goes. Wishing you all the best! You will get there! Have faith! There are lots of very good kind people in the world. Seek them out.

  8. Merfango May 14, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    I am from a disfunctional family of eight, five siblings, I am the youngest. They were all brought up a different way to me – in a cult. I was freed from this at en early age and therefore did not endure some of the hardships that they encountered. There have been many ups and downs but myself, my parents and sister always remained close. All the others have in some way attacked either myself, her or my parents on numerous occasions, both mentally and physically. Two of them are diagnosed mentally ill and the others I think there time will come. She has decided however to pursue relationships with these people and I am really struggling to forgive her. I have decided to remove myself for the sake of my own family, but this is now causing strain on my parents and the sound of her voice mentioned makes me hurt. Feel at a crossroads.

    • AgentSully May 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Merfango, I would think being able to talk this out with someone would be very helpful, either a professional or someone who is wise, mature and kind.
      As general advice, I would say try to find that place where your release the desire to control what your sister does. That means releasing fears that you have regarding what she is doing.
      If keeping distance from those who are destructive towards you works for your life, my thought would be to continue with that.

      If your sister wants to try for reconciliation, then release her to do that. Don’t let it be in any way a reflection on your relationship with her. Let that be separate from any relationship she is pursuing with others.

      I know that these things are easier said than done, but I also know that if you can continually coach yourself, remaining calm even when the emotions feel hot, that over time, you can have a different perspective and reactions. You can free yourself from anger and then forgive.

      I hope this helps. I wish you all the best.

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