Learning to Forgive When It’s Hard to Forget
If you’ve been wronged, especially in a deeply personal way, you may be tempted to hold on tightly to your anger and resentment. Don’t. As the Mayo Clinic advises, people who cannot bring themselves to forgive others often ironically become the ones who “pay most dearly” in terms of mental and even physical anguish. Knowing this doesn’t make forgiveness easy, but it does make it vital.
Everyone is a Work in Progress
Just as you are constantly changing and developing, so is the person who harmed you. A co-worker who made a seemingly cutting remark or the neighbor who seemed disrespectful may simply have been unaware of how their words or actions affected you. When the offense is small, try to give the other party the benefit of the doubt. Chalk the incident up to their need for some more personal growth and move on.
Realize Their Behavior Isn’t About You
It’s simple to let bad behavior slide when the issue is minor or your relationship with the offender is distant, but when someone close hurts you—say a cheating boyfriend—forgiveness may not be so easy. After all, as Psychology Today points out, the most hurtful part of infidelity is often living with the knowledge that something has made your partner willfully betray your trust. It’s easy to believe that that “something” is you. Refuse to take that burden on yourself. Whatever made your significant other stray—weakness, fear or perhaps insecurity—it’s something they have to own, not you.
There is a Lesson to Be Learned
Even life’s most difficult situations have something to teach you. Perhaps you’ve just discovered your best friend is spreading vicious lies about you that are affecting your other relationships. You could choose to withhold forgiveness and wallow in bitterness, but wouldn’t it be better to let the situation teach you a lesson about the benefits or responding with grace?
Consider the World’s Wisdom
Many of the world’s religions place great importance on forgiveness. For example, the concept is central to the teachings of Jesus and, according to Pastor Ed Young, the founder of the Ed Young Fellowship Church, it is the very “cornerstone of the Christian life.” Across the centuries and across humanity’s many faiths, wise men and women have long believed this virtue was imperative to a good life. If you are having trouble with the idea of forgiveness, choose to embrace their witness and wisdom.
Realize You May Be Subjecting Yourself to Pain
Unfortunately, we live in a world where some of us will be hurt in the very worst ways possible, becoming victims of violent crime or sexual assault. Though these acts are terrible in and of themselves, some of their worst consequences are the long-lasting psychic harm victims must endure. In these situations, it is possible to let pain and hate consume you, but those negative emotions don’t hurt the perpetrator. Instead, they simply change you. They keep you from living the beautiful, fulfilling life you deserve. In these cases, the choice to forgive is about self-preservation.
By Jasmine Perez Jasmine lives in Mesa, Ariz., with her two cats and pug named Spike