When we are hurt and angry forgiveness seems impossible. But forgiveness is important.
Did somebody do something to you that you simply can’t forgive?
Perhaps your sister embarrassed you AGAIN at a family gathering with something she said. Perhaps your husband chose your mother-in-law’s side in a discussion about where to spend Easter. Or a good friend forgot to invite you to her Cabi party.
And are you so angry, so hurt, that you just can’t get past it?
I am here to tell you that you can learn how to forgive . Holding a grudge is one of the worst things that you can do for your health . So don’t!
Here are the 5 ways to forgive even if it seems out of reach:
1. Recognize that everyone is human.
Everyone is doing the best that they can. Let me say that again. Everyone is doing the best that they can.
The person who you are today, right now, is the result of a lifetime of experiences, experiences that include how your mother loved you when you were a child and the way that taxi driver splashed you with a muddy puddle this morning.
It is a combination of those things that determine how you react to something the way you do. The same rules apply to other people .
You know that co-worker who is rude to you every morning when you come into the office? Who doesn’t greet you with a smile and small talk? Do you resent that person, think perhaps she is a bitch? Do you spend way too much time thinking about it during meetings?
That co-worker is just a person, doing the best that she can, and you have no idea what she is dealing with. Perhaps she has an autistic child who needs to be dropped off at the daycare in the morning and the process is devastating every time. Might that person not be able to greet you with a happy smile in the morning? Might that person be more in need of some compassion from you?
Don’t assume anything about anyone. We are all just doing the best that we can . We are human, after all.
2. Don’t take everything personally.
It is not all about you. Again, it is not all about you.
“What’s this?” you think. “Of course it’s all about me.”
When someone hurts you, I can guarantee that they almost never set out to hurt you. What they do might be insensitive but more often than not, hurting you is not the reason why someone does something.
When your husband sides with your mother-in-law about Easter Sunday, he is not doing it on purpose hurt you . He is doing it because he wants to please his mother or even perhaps because he genuinely believes her plan is the better one.
He does not do it because he has no respect for your opinions because he does. And he demonstrated this last week when he applauded your actions around a problem at work.
He did it for his own reasons, ones that have nothing to do with you .
Not taking everything as a personal affront is an excellent way to take steps towards forgiveness. Know that people do things for a variety of reasons and hurting you is rarely one of them.
3. Look to the future, not the past.
Do you want your present and your future to be based on the past ? Or do you want your future to be bright and full of possibilities?
If yes, stop looking to the past and look forward with an open heart.
I have a client whose husband left her a LONG time ago and she still can’t get past it. Everything that is wrong in her life, she blames on his leaving her . Everything.
In an effort to help her forgive her husband and move on, we’ve been working on her building a life for herself. She has found a great job and is under contract in a wonderful apartment. She is dating again and spending lots of time with her grandchildren. For the first time in years, she is happy.
The more she focuses on her present and her future, the less time she spends obsessing about the past and all of her perceived losses. Because that’s what her losses are — perceived. She has no idea how her life might have been if her husband had stayed with her. What she does know is how amazing her life is now.
And that is what counts.
4. Take responsibility.
This is a hard one — to take responsibility for our role in a perceived hurt . But it’s a very important one.
We all play a role in every interaction we have. And, like it or not, our role is as relevant to the outcome as much as the other person’s.
In the case of my client who was irate for not being invited to her friend’s Cabi party, I asked her to take a good look at why she thought she might not have been invited.
At first, she said that she had no idea, that her friend was just a loser. But then, after some reflection, she realized that she hadn’t really enjoyed the last Cabi party and that she might have expressed those feelings to a few of their friends.
Perhaps her friend hadn’t invited her for just that reason? Not because she was a loser and wanted to hurt her friend but maybe because she knew her friend didn’t enjoy the parties and wanted her not to feel compelled to attend?
Hm, that changes things a bit, doesn’t it?
5. Be honest and let it go.
You know when you stay up all night, playing and replaying something that your sister said to you on the phone? How it was just like something that she has said to you your entire lives? How it drives you crazy every time?
Have you ever told her that it drives you crazy every time? Perhaps now is the time.
Being honest with someone about something they are doing that hurts you is important. And it’s important to do so in an honest, nonpassive-aggressive way.
It’s entirely possible that your sister doesn’t know how she repeatedly upsets you. If you tell her you are giving her an opportunity to change or explain her behavior. And if you understand the reasons behind her behaviors you can accept them and let them go.
Because who wants to stay up all night ruminating about their sister’s words and actions? Sleep is a precious thing that shouldn’t be squandered needlessly.
So let it go. Get some sleep. Be happy.
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” So said Alexander Pope in the early 1700s. He knew even back then the virtue found in forgiveness. He knew that we were all doing the best that we can and to forgive is to find God.
So practice forgiveness. Cut those who upset you some slack, accept responsibility for your share of the blame, let go of the past and make yourself a bright future.
Because that’s what we want. No matter how dark our past, we want our future to be bright. And with forgiveness, it can be.