The Art of Forgiveness: How to Forgive

How do you forgive once you decide you want to? In parts one and two of this series, we talked about who you might consider forgiving and why you might want to consider forgiving them.  Now the question is: How?

Sometimes it’s helpful to figure out why we’re angry in the first place, and sometimes that’s easy. In the case of abuse, for example, it’s very easy to know why you are angry, and justifiably so.  Own your anger and the feeling of betrayal; they are natural emotions and trying to hide them only prolongs the healing process.  (And don’t be afraid to seek professional help; the opinions here are based on my own life experiences, and I’m certainly not a trained professional.)

It’s not always so easy, though.  Many times we get angry at those closest to us when they don’t live up to our expectations, and recognizing that we even have those expectations can be a helpful first step. Sometimes the people in our lives are simply not capable of meeting our expectations or just view the world differently, and it’s futile to try to change them.  This doesn’t mean you have to keep the person in your life, although sometimes you can’t avoid it, as with a parent, sibling, or even your boss if you’re not ready to make a job change.

In that case it might be helpful to keep in mind that most people don’t mean to torment us emotionally by not meeting our expectations and our needs. They just don’t understand us or have needs that are completely different from our own. Maybe they’re wondering why you’re not meeting theirs. Reframing how you look at the situation can help you find inner peace and forgiveness with it.

Here are a few ways to help you look at the situation differently and find forgiveness.  Try to:

• Change your reaction to the person you want to forgive. Sometimes there’s a cycle, where the person makes you mad and then you react by getting mad, lecturing, etc. Well, stop that. Through sheer force of will if you must, don’t react. You might end up feeling better about yourself and will be able to single-handedly shift the energy of the situation.  With the shift, you might be able to find forgiveness where you hadn’t been able to before.

• Change your thoughts.  We touched on this in the previous articles, but nip those replayed stories in the bud. Don’t keep spinning around mentally about how mad you are, and don’t script arguments with the other person.  Again, at first it might be sheer force of will to stop, but then it will become habit.  Sometimes it helps to start thinking about something else, so you’re creating a new thought pattern instead of just trying to stop the old.

• Have compassion for the other person.  It’s difficult when you angry, if not seemingly impossible, but if you realize they’re causing themselves pain, too, and that they’re stuck with themselves day in and day out, sometimes that can help you.

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• Find your sense of humor. When your mother reminds you for the 100th time that she doesn’t think you’re as successful as your brother, find the humor in the fact that clearly she thinks you’re deaf, too, for not hearing her the first 99 times.

• Keep things in perspective. We all dislike being harmed by another, regardless of whether he or she intended harm or not. Our pain is very real to us, regardless of how another may feel about it. Others, though, have likely forgiven much worse, and that might be helpful to keep in mind. The Forgiveness Project is a good starting place for stories about amazing humans finding something inside themselves that we all hope we have.

• Be kind and gentle with yourself as you work through the process.  Getting angry at yourself only creates another person you will need to forgive — you! — so know that it takes time and that’s normal.  If you really want to forgive, trust that you’ll find a way, and that God/the Universe/your soul/your higher self will help you find the way.

How will you forgive someone who’s hurt you? Also have a look at The Art of Forgiveness: Who to Forgive and The Art of Forgiveness: Why Forgive.



The Art of Forgiveness: How to Forgive — 2 Comments

  1. Two people intalnsty come to mind when I think forgiveness My husband and my step-dad. All through high school, my step-dad (who has now admitted to this, since finding Christ) did everything in his power to make my life harder. I was already struggling with depression and self-esteem issues because I had just started to really make friends when they decided to get married. We had to move to the other side of the country. I had an even harder time making friends in California. I didn’t agree with a lot of things my peers were doing, I was extremely shy and just packed on another shell to hide my true self when we moved, and on top of that, my step-dad refused to ever let me leave the house without the rest of the family. He has changed a lot, but in some ways he hasn’t. I still have some problems with him, although I’ve learned better, more mature ways to deal with these problems. I’ve forgiven him for a lot but I am definitely still a long way from the end of that journey. As for my husband, we have just had a LOT f ups and extreme downs. With both people I listed, there was a lot of emotional/psychological abuse as well as small amounts of physical abuse. That is something that I have always been afraid of and felt I would never be able to forgive someone for. I CAN’T forgive someone for it. However, I have given it to God and he can cleanse that from our lives and our minds. Things are not fully resolved, but we are working to eliminate these things and to forgive and leave the past in the past.

  2. Just realizing that you want to forgive is a huge step in making it happen….and sometimes our shells are there for a reason with certain people….so although you definitely want to know your true self and show that self when and how it’s safe, it might also be ok to consciously keep the shell to protect yourself against those who might cause you pain. Although you are changing and growing, others might not be. Many thanks to you for sharing your experience.