Forgiving people might seem unnecessary or even counter-productive, but it is much more important than people think. Forgiveness is not about making the other person feel better, but rather about allowing yourself to feel better by not holding on to negative emotions.
Forgiveness can sometimes repair friendships and relationships, but the real importance of it is that it can help you learn how to heal and move on from whatever situation occurred with a particular person.
The first question you are probably asking yourself is WHY you should forgive other people, and what this might mean to you. Keep in mind that forgiving others does NOT mean:
- Excusing what they did as being okay or acceptable.
- Forgetting what happened.
- Allowing them the freedom to do it again.
- That your relationship is automatically repaired.
So, why do it then? Because it is an important step in the right direction toward decreasing stress and living a more uplifted life. It might not repair your relationship or bring you instantly to a place of being able to trust, but it helps get you a step closer to that. Forgiveness has a positive impact on both your life, and theirs (even if you don’t tell the other person you’ve forgiven them). Forgiveness is about understanding what has happened cannot be undone and accepting that a mistake or even an intentional action was made.
Find a Place of Acceptance
The first true step in forgiving someone is to accept that is has happened. And remembering it is in the past. You have to acknowledge that it took place, instead of living in denial or trying to hide from it. Think of an event you’d like to get past. Do you feel like you are still struggling from this event? Think about the fact that there is nothing you can do to change what happened, but only to deal with it from now on.
For example, if you had a co-worker who betrayed you by taking a promotion that they knew you were going for, you can’t take that back. It is still affecting you by having a lower position and lower pay, but there is nothing you can do to take the promotion from them. Instead, you have to accept that it has happened, and just work hard to get the next one, while deciding if you want to forgive them or not.
Understand the Positive Effects it Had on You
No matter what was done to you where you need to forgive someone, keep in mind that even if it’s hard to find the reasons right now, it probably also had some positive effects on your life. Going back to the example of your co-worker going for your promotion – what has happened since then? Maybe you decided that this wasn’t the right company for you, or you are using this as momentum to work harder and get an even bigger promotion. Maybe you have decided your passion wasn’t in it, and understand that it wasn’t their final decision in the end, and maybe it’s just not the job for you at all. All of these are positive effects of what happened.
In the case of a loved one saying or doing something hurtful to you, your ability to see past what they said as a personal attack, and rather see the good in yourself that they either can’t see or aren’t willing to see, reveals your positive belief in yourself. For example, your sister calls you one day, yelling at you that you are selfish for planning the extended-family Christmas party on a day that didn’t suit her. She really lays into you and brings up all sorts of history, pointing out many times you have been selfish. At some point after you hang up the phone, ask yourself if you planned the party as a selfish act, or if you planned it because you wanted to bring the family together and celebrate your love during a major holiday. If you did something in a loving way, and another cannot see it, or won’t recognize it… it doesn’t make it your problem. It makes it their problem. You spending hours and days, which could turn into weeks and years, being upset by what your sister said is not only unproductive, it is hurting your health.
Rather, focus on the good in what you were trying to achieve (and probably did) with the party. Focus on the fact that you are a great planner, and that during the party you were able to get everyone involved in a group game that created a lot of laughter and connection. (Or whatever you are great at doing.) See how the negative that was pointed out reveals the positive that actually happened. You might even see that your sister resents that you are a better party-planner than she is, or that she’s jealous that others will see you as “better” than she is. You might know that’s not necessarily true, but she doesn’t. Give her a little slack. See how positive you can be??
Forgiving That Person
Forgiveness can be an open and honest situation, but also it can be done all by yourself. It depends on how big the event was, who said or did what, etc. You may not need to tell your co-worker you forgive them for “stealing” your promotion. Forgiving them silently is all it takes. Forgiving silently means you let go of your attachment to the anger you have for them for taking what you wanted.
In the case of your sister… you may want at some point to tell her that you forgive her for screaming at you for doing something good for the family. It might help to let her know that you were hurt and affected by her words (of course you’d say this in a calm and even manner). It might bring you closer together.
However, maybe this sister will never truly listen. In this case, forgiving in silence is probably the best route. This doesn’t mean it was acceptable for her to act this way, but it allows you to not hold on to that ill emotion.
Remember, forgiving isn’t about saying doing bad things is ok. It is about releasing attachments to negative thoughts and emotions. Allow yourself to feel better about your life by not holding on to others’ negative emotions.
Who are you ready to forgive today?