Last weekend, someone I love very much said something hurtful to me. At first it stung – my first reaction was to get defensive and try to shake it off. But as the words settled into my heart, it felt like a bullet had gone straight through it. I sat with the words, like dead weights in my chest, fighting an inner battle to just let them go. But that pushing seemed to only make the pain increase. Yes, her words were hurtful and thoughtless but then I thought, “If anyone else had said this, I would’ve considered them to be a jerk and moved on.”
I realized: when you’re wronged by someone you love so much, it just seems to hurt twice as much. Anyone who has ever had their heart broken knows that first hand.
After a discussion and hugs, I forgave my friend. I’m not perfect – I’ve hurt her before, too. I think she was just as relieved as me when the forgiveness wormed its way into my heart. They say forgiveness isn’t for the offender, and that’s true. I’ve forgiven people I have no interest in speaking to ever again for one reason or another. I do that forgiving more for myself than them. But when the other person loves you just as much as you love them, forgiveness is equally freeing for that person, too.
Forgiveness and freedom are two words that go hand in hand, aren’t they?
Think of someone who has wronged you or hurt you deeply. Have you forgiven them for their mistake? Or are you hanging on to the hurt, letting it weigh you down in one way or another? Are there people you’re avoiding or have written out of your life so you don’t have to deal with the emotions that come with having them around? Are there places that you refuse to go to for fear of running into someone you don’t want to see?
Doesn’t that feel like an emotional prison?
If you allow yourself to really forgive – imagine just how freeing that would be. Are you really willing to hang on to something and let it control your happiness, your life experiences and even where you go to have fun/grocery shop/whine with friends?
“Forgive and forget” is something we hear all the time. The trouble is, most of us don’t know how to do it. There’s no playbook for forgiveness, no manual for getting past betrayals, disappointments, and hurts.
I love Judith Orloff’s scenarios for forgiveness & how to do it:
- A good friend acts inconsiderately when she’s having a bad day. Remember, nobody’s perfect. You may want to let the incident slide. If you do mention it, don’t make this one-time slight into a big deal. Give your friend a break — forgive the lapse.
- A coworker takes credit for your ideas. Do damage control — whether it means mentioning this situation to the coworker, your boss or Human Resources. And don’t trust her with ideas in the future. However, try to forgive the coworker who has to stoop so low as to steal from you.
- Your mother-in-law is needy or demanding. Keep setting kind, but firm boundaries so over time you can reach palatable compromises. But also have mercy on the insecurities beneath her neediness and demands — perhaps she experiences fear of being alone, of aging, of being excluded from the family or of not being heard. This will soften your response to her.
- You suffered childhood abuse. The healing process of recovering from abuse requires enormous compassion for yourself and is facilitated by support from other abuse survivors, family, friends or a therapist. Still, if you feel ready to work towards forgiveness of an abuser, it might require seeing the brokenness and suffering that would make the person want to commit such harm. This is a huge stretch of compassion, but could possibly be the path to freedom.
No one ever gets to the end of their life and thinks, “I wish I stayed angry longer.” They generally say one of three things: “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” or “I love you.”
How do you forgive? What are some of the steps you take or what do you think in order to reach that point of forgiveness? Please share your thoughts with me and other readers!