There are numerous situations in life where a person hurts you so much that it seems impossible to forget, let alone to forgive, what this person has done to you.
As time passes by you accumulate a variety of people on your “list” that have hurt you in one way or the other. Be it those that left you for good, others that hurt you or a family member/friend physically, robbed or exploited you, lied to you or showed any other hurtful behavior one can think of. With each person that joins this “list” you bear another hurtful burden on your shoulder that you carry around with yourself. Basically, you begin to torture yourself for the behavior of others that you can neither influence nor change. It deeply hurts to rethink the situation over and over again, imagining what your life would have turned out if it had not happened to you at all.
Unfortunately, whatever happened cannot be undone. No one is able to wipe the slate clean (figuratively speaking). However, you have the very powerful chance to forgive and to let go of the ballast that you carry on your shoulders.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.
How to let go and forgive
Forgiveness is the single most important step towards healing. It will also allow you to let go of anger and inner turmoil that you feel within. Even more important, it helps you to let go of the pain.
But how do you forgive? How do you forgive someone who hurt you so much, a person who took everything that you held dear? And why should you forgive in the first place?
The simple answer is: because it is necessary for your healing.
There are two alternatives to forgiveness. One is to take revenge the other is to continue carrying the anger and hatred around with you for several years or the rest of your life. Both options will not set you free from the pain, they will not allow you to let go. When taking revenge, one might notice a short-term relieve of the pain, but in the end you will realize that it did not contribute at all to the process of letting go. The avenger does not feel better at all, but there is the insight that he or she has stooped to the aggressor’s level. On the other hand, carrying the burden around with you doesn’t make anything undone. In fact, it will only continue to hurt you.
#1 Take yourself time
No one is rushing you to forgive. Take yourself all the time you need to heal (emotional) wounds. It is only natural that you will not be able to forgive a week, month or even a year after what happened. For as long as the pain can still be felt and the memory of the incident is still vivid, thinking about forgiveness might not be the right option for your healing. Instead, allow time to help you come to terms with what happened.
#2 Develop acceptance
Acceptance is the foundation for forgiveness. Acceptance means that you are ready to acknowledge that neither you nor anybody else can make the situation undone. It is the realization that you cannot change the past, but that you always have the chance to make the best of your situation from here on now.
#3 The act of forgiving – attribute of the strong
Many people associate forgiveness with weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
The willingness to forgive takes an incredible amount of maturity, growth and wisdom. However, the person that is able to take up the strength to forgive will discover the true power of forgiveness: it empowers you to let go and to release the suffering.
#4 Realize the drawbacks of not forgiving
Again, people have a problematic relationship with forgiving, as they believe that forgiveness only sets the other part free. Once again, this isn’t the whole truth, as forgiveness will first and foremost set YOU free.
Holding on to your anger, however, can have numerous more or less significant drawbacks for your life. The most important disadvantage of all is that you will always remain in the role of the victim. Victimhood makes you powerless and only you can answer the question if it affects you from pursuing your dreams.
On the other hand, you have nothing to lose by forgiving the mistakes of others. You can only win, in particular your freedom.
#5 Empathize and develop an understanding
I personally find it by far easier to forgive and let go after I have developed an understanding of why a person did to me what they did. I try to empathize and to walk in this persons shoes (figuratively speaking) – even if it’s hard, which more often than not gives me a good understanding of this persons motives. And if I am brutally honest with myself, I realize that I might have done the same, if I found myself in a similar situation with the same background as the other part.
Empathizing will also lead to the understanding that we all make hurtful mistakes in life, but also that our behavior does hurt other people every once in a while.
#6 Avoid the spiral of aggression
Another important aspect that I feel should be mentioned in this article is the “spiral of aggression”. Have you ever been in a heated situation – which may have developed over years – where neither you nor your opponent knew who and what really started the argument? This is what I call the spiral of aggression, in which a relatively minor problem leads two opposing factions to attack and react to the opponents attack leading the aggression to spiral up high. However, if one of the opponents had the courage to forgive (the cleverer give in) this whole situation could have been avoided.
Avoid this spiral. Try to avoid any kinds of ridiculous fights. Forgive, let go and go on in your life.
#7 Finally: forgive!
Forgive and set yourself free from the pain. It will take you a lot of courage and strength to do so, but you will be rewarded with the freedom to live your life without the burden that was put on your shoulder and without the pain that it created.