here will be times in your life when you experience hurt at the hands of a loved one. Maybe you argued, or your spouse had an affair. Perhaps a friend didn’t include you in a decision or activity or said some hurtful words. No matter the cause, there will come a time where you must figure out how to forgive someone — or whether you want to forgive in the first place.
Many of us are taught that forgiveness is a must, that we need to forgive offenses and immediately move on. For example, forgiveness is incredibly ingrained in my faith, Christianity. Many scriptures and teachings in the Word instruct us to forgive others and treat them with the same gentleness and kindness of Our Father, who has forgiven us. But although Christians believe that we are made in His image, we are also human, and forgiveness, for many, is a complicated topic. It is easier said than done!
However, regardless of your religion, unforgiveness is spiritually and physically unhealthy. Holding onto those wounded feelings can have serious negative effects, including impacting your physical and mental health. When you find a way to forgive, you can lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, sleep better, improve your self-esteem, and much more.
Holding onto anger and hurt can even damage the relationships you have with others. Ask yourself: how bad was the transgression? Bad enough to risk losing that relationship forever? Maybe the answer is yes. But usually, you’ll realize that the love in your heart is more valuable than the hurt you’re feeling now.
Of course, once you have decided that you are ready to forgive a loved one — whether it’s your spouse, friend, or family member — the next step is learning how to forgive. In my book, The Healing of the Heart, I address forgiveness and its many misconceptions, and here, I want to share a bit of that wisdom with you.
Know What It Means to Forgive
One of the reasons we struggle with knowing how to forgive someone is that we genuinely do not understand what forgiveness means. When someone apologizes to us and means it, we immediately feel like we must forgive them. This is not true. Forgiveness is a choice. When you forgive, you choose to release the bitterness and hurt you feel and decide to let go of your need for revenge. You accept things as they are and change your heart and mind toward the person.
Forgiveness does not mean:
You must forget
Your pain is not legitimate
That you are okay with what happened
That you are okay with how they treated you
That you are weak-minded
If anything, forgiveness takes strength of heart and your dedication to preserving a meaningful relationship in your life.
Take It One Day at a Time
Sometimes it may feel impossible to forgive someone after they have hurt you. In many cases, you may feel like you want to seek revenge on this person so that they can feel the same distress they caused you.
Do not give in to this temptation and respond to the other person from a place of pain. It will only lead to more. Scripture warns us that the “tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The same tongue we use to praise our Lord and Father also has the power to tear each other down. So, we must be careful in our actions.
Instead of acting immediately, allow yourself time to feel the emotions and sit with them. If you feel ready to forgive, you can. But if not, do not rush or force it. Give it time — days, months, even years. But remember, it can take a toll on you.
Time allows us to heal and move on. But that doesn’t mean you must forget. Take Joseph, for example. By the time Joseph’s brothers showed up to buy grain in Egypt, he had forgiven them for taking his beautiful, gifted tunic and selling him into bondage out of jealousy. Though he had not forgotten what happened, he chose to forgive his brothers and invite them to live in Egypt instead of using the opportunity to take revenge.
Replay the Incident
Before starting down the path to forgiveness, I invite you to replay the incident. Pinpoint why it hurts so much. Maybe it is because they violated your trust, took advantage of a vulnerability, or stepped on an important dream or goal.
Although it can be painful to revisit, replaying the incident can help give you a new perspective on what happened. It may even reveal to you a way you can work together to fix the issue. Or, on the other hand, it may help you realize that you cannot maintain a harmonious relationship in the future. Understand that forgiveness doesn’t always end in reconciliation. Sometimes you can forgive someone and part ways.
Take Responsibility for Your Part
It feels natural to play the blame game when you are hurt and place the responsibility on the other person. Take a step back and consider your role in this situation. What part did you play, and how can you take responsibility for it? That can look like being the bigger person and reaching out first in forgiveness.
As mentioned above, this is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a sign of great strength, as you are putting yourself in control of your healing. Pursuing forgiveness and owning your own mistakes means you are taking the opportunity to call out areas of improvement and learn from them. This is especially important if you decide that you want to keep the relationship and mend it.
Let Go of Your Expectation
Another reason people often struggle with learning how to forgive is they have expectations about how forgiveness should look. We understand the power of forgiveness, yet we feel that we “lose” if we take our forgiveness to the other person first. Many of us are unwilling to take that step, afraid to let go of our power by breaking the silence. We think things like:
They should apologize first
They should remember
They should know about my (past, triggers, faith, boundaries)
They should understand
People cannot read minds. We cannot expect others to know what will trigger us. At the same time, we cannot expect them to react with the same manner of conscientiousness, emotional maturity, or consideration that we would. Some people have not yet developed those skills! You cannot focus on what the other person should do, but instead, ask yourself what you are willing to do to start forgiving the other person and move forward.
When you forgive someone, you may need to set gentle boundaries afterward. Talk to your friend or loved one about what happened and how it made you feel. Explain that it wasn’t okay and why. This incident may help you realize you need to set up proper boundaries to handle someone who continues to break your trust and violate your friendship. When creating those boundaries, ask yourself what you need to protect yourself and your relationship.
Find Forgiveness with KF Life Coaching
Learning how to forgive someone is not always an easy path. When your emotions are swirling, you cannot see clearly. Sometimes, it can turn a minor incident into a mountain-sized challenge. But you don’t have to face this mountain alone.
My services at KF Lie Coaching are dedicated to empowering and offering hope to couples, individuals, and families trying to overcome personal obstacles to improve their relationships.
If you are interested in learning more, get in touch today! Together, we can start down the road to healing.
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