How To Forgive, Even When You Don’t Want To
“Forgive and forget.”
It’s cliche. We know. And unfortunately, as humans, we often like to harbour our resentment.
Instead, we let our resentment grow and foster in our subconscious minds. We feed off of it and begin to believe the world just sucks. You hit every red light, and it’s their fault - not yours. You feel you have been wronged. You are hurt. Angry. Heck, you might even want revenge - cue Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.”
The funny thing about holding a grudge is that you aren’t hurting anyone, but yourself. And whether the person deserves your forgiveness or not, forgiving them is necessary to move on and to grow.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that forgive is, “to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong.” It’s not even about the other person. It’s about YOU. YOU have to let go of the anger. YOU have to let yourself be happy. It’s an entirely internal process.
So no matter how much you might hate the person or feel you have been wronged, it comes down to you. Perhaps “forgive and forget” isn’t such bad advice after all. Forgiveness leads to healing. And forgiveness and healing lead to a better life - one where you aren’t carrying around heavy baggage from your past. But, how do you do it? Where do you start?
We recommend talking to a friend or therapist. But in the meantime, you can ponder the following. Let it guide your thoughts toward the positive, toward forgiveness and healing, and ultimately, toward a better life.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first step is acknowledgement. Acknowledge that you are only causing yourself harm, mentally and emotionally. Accept how you are feeling. Admit it and recognize it.
Our emotions shape us and change us. We make every decision based on our emotions. But you can’t always trust your emotions. Emotional intelligence is your awareness, control, and expression of your emotions. Imagine if everyone acted and reacted according to how they were feeling? Without emotional intelligence, the world would be in chaos.
You control your emotions - not the other way around. This means you have total control to let go of whatever or whoever has caused you harm - whether they are aware of it or not. Again, acknowledge this. Take responsibility for your feelings. Examine how and why you feel a certain way. Challenge yourself. And try to understand yourself. In other words, take this as an opportunity to build your emotional intelligence.
Think Positive Thoughts Only
Forgiveness is letting go of negative thoughts. Write out how you feel. Talk to someone. Let out the negative - vent! Then, think of the positive. Count your blessings - literally. What are you thankful for? Find the good in your life. Trust us, it’s definitely there, even though it might not feel like it.
Use forgiveness mantras. One such mantra has roots in Buddhism and is as follows:
For whatever harm I have caused others, may they forgive me.
For whatever harm others have caused me, may I forgive them.
For whatever harm I have caused myself, I forgive myself.
Take a deep inhale, then repeat it 3 times. Let the words sink in. Let their meaning become more prominent each time you say them. Embrace them and become them.
Another way to practice positive thinking and forgiveness? Do forgiveness meditations (Insight Timer and Headspace are both great apps for finding guided meditations). Or meditate using your forgiveness mantra.
Positivity goes a long way. So, why not integrate it into your life if you haven’t already? You have nothing to lose. It’s not just great for working on forgiveness and healing. It also works wonders in your everyday life to make the best of it and help you live your life to the fullest.
Give Yourself Some Space
If it’s a bad breakup, practice creating distance between you and the other person. Same goes for other situations. Remove yourself from them. Reset and reconnect with yourself. Sort out your feelings.
It might seem like a big deal right now. Months or years down the road, it might not matter. Don’t hold onto anger or negative thinking that isn’t serving you. And normally it isn’t. Take time to yourself and process everything that happened. You need this.
Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is moving forward. Holding onto resentment is living in the past. You might be scared. What if it happens again? Set boundaries for next time. What won’t you tolerate in the future? Communicate it in the future. But be realistic.
If someone has betrayed your trust, know that it’s often something to do with the other person - not you. And know that not everyone is like that. Forgiveness is not about condoning the person’s behaviour. Again, it’s about personal growth and moving forward with an open heart and an open mind.
Forgive But Don’t Forget…
Forgiving is letting go. But don’t forget about your past experiences entirely. Take them and learn from them. Let them shape you. Let them make you better than you were. This is what life is all about - learning and growing.
Without these bumps in the road, life would be boring. We wouldn’t know what real happiness is without the lows. Be thankful for what they teach you and how they remind you of the good.
Another bonus: Forgiveness lowers your blood pressure and your risk of anxiety or depression. Holding onto resentment doesn’t do you any good. It’s another thing to stress about. Another worry that takes up your time and attention. Instead, take care of yourself. You can only control you.
Start practicing forgiveness. We know it’s tough. We know you might not want to. But you and your life will be better for it.