Have you ever tried to forgive someone and couldn’t? I know I have. Someone says or does something hurtful, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and it digs deep. There is no forgetting the words or actions. We might realize that it’s eating us alive and recognize that we need to forgive, but somehow we just can’t. I’ve been in this position many times. The constant, looping replay of the event. The sleepless nights thinking about a response – no matter how delayed. The feelings of anger, hurt, resentment, bitterness that just keep on churning within us. Here’s the thing: those feelings only hurt us. Not the person (or institution) we are obsessing over. Us. Me. My heart. My soul. My mind. Tortured.
So what do we do if this is happening to us? We work on forgiveness because forgiving the offender and the offense will free us from the poison that is unforgiveness. And just HOW do we do this you ask? Good question…
1. Realize that forgiveness is NOT a feeling. We may never ever ever feel like forgiving someone. If we wait for that, we’ll never get there. They don’t deserve it. They hurt us and it’s unjust.
2. Realize it’s easier to feel anger than hurt. Underneath every good episode of rage is hurt. Every time. At our core, someone has hurt us and it’s easier to feel anger than to feel the pain of the betrayal. Allow yourself to feel the pain of the hurt. Sit in it a while. Marinate in it. Ouch, right?
3. Realize that forgiveness is a conscious choice. It’s a decision to no longer hold that person accountable for what they said or did. Is that fair? No. But we’re not talking about fairness; we’re talking about freedom. Your freedom from the hurt and bitterness that is growing inside you. If you choose to forgive, you may have to remind yourself that you’ve forgiven that person a thousand times a day.
Here’s how this works: Make the decision. Decide that you are no longer going to let this eat away at you. That you are no longer going to let this steal your joy. You are going to be the bigger person and forgive that person. This does not mean you have to go to them and have this conversation. It just means that you forgive them internally. Privately. Within yourself. Then tell yourself that you are making the decision to forgive this person not because they deserve it, but because you do. Decide that you are going to let it go, that you are going to release the pain you feel and the bitterness towards the other person. Then let it go. Write it down and burn it. Visualize it as a thought bubble dissipating. Write it in the sand and let the water wash it away. Whatever works for you. Then, every time you remember the hurt, pain and bitterness, you remind yourself that you’ve chosen to forgive. You’ve chosen to release it as a gift to yourself. That’s the part you may have to do thousands of times until one day you do feel the forgiveness. The action leads to the feeling…eventually.
I’d love to hear your stories. Have you ever forgiven someone? How did you do it? What was it like for you before and after?
Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC