Forgiveness is something that is often viewed as beneficial for the other person, but I have learned that forgiveness is actually more beneficial for the person doing the forgiving. My biggest challenge of forgiving was in relation to my father and releasing the 25 year grudge I had been holding. All this time I felt that he was undeserving of my forgiveness because nothing had changed…but I was doing more harm to myself by holding onto the hurt.
Today I want to talk about how to actually forgive people who may have hurt you or done something wrong, whether they’ve asked for your forgiveness or not. While I’m not the only one with daddy issues, I do know that’s not everyone’s story. Maybe you had a great father, but there was a family member who took advantage of your innocence, or an ex who treated you worst than you could’ve ever imagined, or the bully from elementary school who’s words still play in your mind. Whoever that person is, you have to forgive them even if they don’t deserve it. The forgiveness is for you!
1. You have to ACTIVELY work to let go of the hurt
This is something I need everyone to understand, forgiveness isn’t something that is going to just happen naturally. It is a muscle that has to be trained and developed in order to be effective. I’m not sure why but it just isn’t our natural defense to forgive someone who’s hurt us or done us wrong. But you absolutely have to get rid of the hurt that has been caused or you will begin to carry around the burden of someone else’s mistakes/actions as personal baggage. And we already have enough baggage from our own mistakes, no need in carrying someone else’s baggage too.
When I hit my absolute rock bottom in life was when I learned how to let things go, it’s crazy how our worse situations can teach you so much right? But I reached a place where I barely had the energy to survive the day, let alone continue to carry the weight of angry, disappointment, and frustration. Once I finally decided to just let the hurt go, I stopped expecting him to change, and focused on what I needed to fix…I realized forgiving him was benefiting me!
2. Understand forgiveness benefits you
I think we underestimate how much energy it requires to be angry or to hold a grudge…or to make someone pay for the same mistakes over and over again. I’ve gotten to the place now where I see that I don’t have that kind of energy to waste…it’s entirely too precious for me! I know sometimes that big forgiveness project may seem too difficult to overcome right now, and I understand that, try something smaller. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, your boss drives you crazy unnecessarily, or someone says something unpleasant…forgive them!
3. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation
This is one thing that I wish more people understood. Simply because you’ve forgiven a person doesn’t mean that you MUST reconcile the relationship, it’s not necessary in some instances. Most importantly reconciliation isn’t a requirement of forgiving someone. Just because I have forgiven you doesn’t mean that I have to let you back into my life, in fact healthy distance is best sometimes. Like that ex that broke your heart, imagine if reconciliation was a requirement for forgiveness…it would be pretty messy!
4. Free yourself
When you work towards forgiving others, you release the yourself from the bondage that grudges creates. There is such a freedom that comes from releasing the anger and hurt from your heart, the more often you practice this skill of forgiveness the lighter you will begin to feel. Once you start forgiving people consistently (even for the smallest of things) you will learn to do it quicker because you don’t want to carry the weight of anger. Free yourself and release yourself of the responsibility of carrying that baggage around every day!
5. Recognize they’ve moved on…so you should too!
This was the hardest part for me to get, but once I did it made forgiveness seem like the obvious choice. Far too many times I found myself holding onto anger and frustration with those who have long since moved on without a second thought. Here I am holding onto something that happened weeks, months, even years ago meanwhile they’re off living their lives barely remembering what THEY did.
Once I truly got this revelation I immediately let the hurt go. There is no way that [fill in the blank] deserves to live a more peaceful life than you do…but that power in your hands. Every time you hold onto that anger, you are giving the person who hurt you a little piece of your peace. They’ve already taken so much from you, do they really need to take anything more? No! So protect your peace by learning to let it go!
*Bonus* Learn to forgive yourself
This is certainly going to be a challenge, and in the spirit of transparency it’s something I’m still working on. A large part of our “baggage” comes from the things we have yet to forgive ourselves for. Sometimes that include “How could I let them do that to me”. When was the last time you forgave yourself? Try forgiving yourself for something daily and see how closer you get to finding peace.