Be ready to discover just how important it is to act with intentionality. To forgive someone else is a conscious choice and not a result of developing a more 'forgiving nature' as some might suppose. The good news is this means anyone can learn to become more forgiving, regardless of upbringing, personality, belief system, or any of a hundred other differences.
The tips which follow will carry you through in three separate ways. The first two sections will look back on those barriers to forgiveness, which we examined in the previous posts and answer each of those excuses. The final section will include some general tips, with some exercises that might prove beneficial to learning how to become more forgiving.
When we think of forgiving others, the process might seem daunting at first. Just how do we go about this process of letting go? Start with these tips here when dealing with other people:
When you feel the urge to 'get back' at the other person, you're only escalating things into a situation where you keep trying to one-up each other. They hurt you, you hurt them, then they hurt you...it all goes round and round until no one remembers exactly where things started.
Don’t believe it? Consider the Hatfields and McCoys. Of course, this is an extreme example. But this kind of lashing out does have a way of breaking relationships in ways you might not intend. The only way out is to decide to be the bigger person and step back. Forgiveness is the key.
How to do it? Make a conscious decision to let this go. Stand down and refuse to engage in other fights. This, too, is a form of forgiveness.
How easy it is to keep thinking about the past. Our mind moves along in well-worn ruts, going over the painful event repeatedly because it knows it so very well. This route becomes a habit, just as driving to work can become a habit so strong you rarely even see the road anymore.
The only way to forgiveness here is to consciously think about something else whenever these thoughts come up. Some ideas?
Picture a place you love.
Think about a goal you’ve created.
Find one thing to be grateful for.
Name something positive which happened today.
Think about someone who has been a true friend to you.
Notice where you are. Look around the room. What do you see?
True power isn’t hidden in anger or mean actions. Instead, it comes from being in control of what you think and feel. Your emotions are your own. Remind yourself forgiveness is cutting what holds you to the other person.
While you acknowledge what happened, the old situation does not define you any more than what they did. As an added bonus, you might want to also consider how much this experience has grown you as a person. You’re not the same as you were before but have been made stronger by this trial and more empathetic. Go you!
While shutting yourself away to keep from being hurt again sounds good initially, you already know how terribly lonely it would be to not enjoy close connections with the people around you. Therefore, forgiveness is important. Without it, you’ll start pulling away from other people in your life. Don’t let an unpleasant experience pull you out of the world or keep you from people you love.
Just how much does it matter to you who was right and who was wrong? In a healthy relationship, it shouldn't. Keeping score is only a way of trying to prove superiority. If this is the case, figure out why it's so important to feel you're better than the other person.
Are you insecure somehow? Is there an element of fear or shame holding you back? Dealing with these emotions will help you put a stop to competitions and allow you to step back and forgive, letting go of bitterness and resentment once and for all.
Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to re-create the original relationship. It might be you need a healthy boundary, at least until the other person has proved themselves again. This might mean a conscious stepping back of just how much intimacy you allow with the person you're forgiving or a period where you wait to see what they do before you welcome them back into your inner circle. A boundary is also a way to protect yourself, especially if the betrayal has been abusive or deliberately harmful.
Don’t wait around for the other person to apologize first. Instead, take the initiative. Offer forgiveness before they have time to think to apologize. Or, if they will not apologize, create a means by which you can forgive, whether you write a letter to them expressing how you feel or create an imaginary conversation with them where you allow yourself to speak your piece. The key here is to remember forgiveness was never about them or anything they can say. It's about you and doing what you need to do.
While outsiders can mean well, they’re not the ones living your life. You are. Forgiveness creates personal freedom for you. Not them. If people are offering advice, politely thank them and instead listen to your heart, doing what’s right for you.
Using forgiveness as a tool to make the other person squirm doesn't sound like true forgiveness at all. Rather than weaponize something which frees you from being tied to a negative event, try taking a step back to examine your motives and emotions. If you're still this mad, you might need to work through what you're feeling before you're ready to actually forgive. Take some time if you need to. Forgiveness will come easier later on when you're less angry.
If it seems like tough guys don’t do forgiveness, or it’s a mark of weakness to acknowledge the pain, it’s definitely past time to look around you at the rest of the world. There are some pretty amazing speakers online who’ve uploaded videos about how forgiveness was life- changing to them. Consider the TED Talk given by Dolph Lundgren or any of a dozen other celebrities who will remind you that you’re not alone on this journey.
If you’re still worried about the other person betraying you again or hurting someone else, you’re missing the point completely. Forgiveness isn’t about changing the other person into something different. It’s about changing you for the better. Remind yourself how you have forgiven this person. No, they are not who you wished they might have been. But you have let go of their actions, accepting they have not always acted in the way you wish them to. But your forgiveness sets you back away from them now. They can’t touch you with this, nor can they drag you back into their drama or pain.
We're told to forgive almost as soon as the offense happens, as though it's unhealthy to wait. The problem is this isn't always a good idea. Sometimes we need more time to work through what happened. There are still emotions to process or hurt feelings that need to settle.
Sometimes we become so familiar with these emotions they become comfortable for us. We know how to be in pain. Letting go and forgiving sounds scary because we aren't sure how this will feel or even if it's going to be any better? The solution? Drop the time limit completely. Take the time to examine how you're feeling. If you have things to think about yet and settle in your mind, do so on a comfortable timeline. You'll know when the time is right to forgive.
And what if you really are stalling? This examination will help you discover whether this is true fairly quickly. If this is the case, yes, it is time to move on and take a chance on what the world be like once you’ve expressed forgiveness.
As always, lean into your spiritual practices, whatever those may be. There's a reason that centering prayer and meditation have been around for so long - they make a difference in our lives. Spiritual practices connect us to the Divine Light within us, and to the broader struggle of being human in this world. Spiritual practices help to ground and center us, giving us a fresh perspective on what to prioritize in order to become stronger within and to create a beautiful life we enjoy waking up to.
As always, comment below, or reach out to have a partner on the journey.
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Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so glad you found your way here.
I am at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to support those who work to grow themselves. I am a trained coach and have consulted with churches in conflict. Not your stereotypical minister, I embrace the Gospel with joy and laughter as I seek to help those around me grow in faith and understanding, always striving to leave people better than they came. An agent of wholeness, I create a safe space for people, especially those who have been marginalized, where they can understand how ridiculously loved and valued they are by God/Higher Power/Spirit, and to experience the difference that makes in life.
I started the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast to share the stories of people who have faced life's most difficult challenges, to inspire you to lean into and overcome your own. It's helpful to know that you're not alone in your struggles and to see how others have navigated similar circumstances. You can listen to it here.
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