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Forgiveness. Or, How to Forgive Someone.

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On a soul level, we choose the people who are in our lives. Many of them will hurt us, and we will hurt them in return. Love and forgiveness are an important part of life’s karma.

There are many types of relationships; romantic, friendships, and families create the strongest bonds. These are the closest relationships we have. When there are powerful emotions involved, and love is powerful, there is the potential for hurt feelings.

Every relationship has its ebb and flow.  Some are temporary.  

When you love someone, it hurts when they leave or when the relationship changes. No matter what the situation, there is the potential to be hurt.

These types of losses can turn into resentments and anger. Or we can forgive, let go and be stronger for having loved.

How Do You Know When You Need to Forgive?

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It’s normal to feel anger and pain when we are hurt by someone we love. But it is unhealthy to carry these feelings with us. It is not healthy to relive the event and resent the person that caused you pain.

If you are hanging on to the past, it’s impossible to focus on the future. A cycle of hurt and anger can trap you. When you are trapped, it’s hard to enjoy the present or believe in the future.

You can recognize when you need to forgive. If you are unhappy and angry and you are focusing this energy towards another person, it may be time. When the pain of hanging on is greater than the pain of letting go, you need to forgive someone.

“This is something I learned the hard way — after years of holding onto anger at a loved one that stemmed from my childhood and teenage years, I finally let go of this anger (about eight years ago or so). I forgave, and not only has it improved my relationship with this loved one tremendously, but it has also helped me to be happier.” — Leo Babauta.

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It’s not always easy to forgive. But here are six steps that should help to forgive and heal.

1.  Admit that it’s time to let go.

Ask yourself how your life is being impacted. What problems are you having? If the person you resent is still in your life? Are other relationships affected? Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you sad and unhappy? Angry?

Do an honest evaluation of your feelings and the problems that result. If you come to the conclusion that you want to be happier, then it may be time to free yourself from the past.

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2. Acknowledge your role in the drama.

You need to understand your responsibility in what went wrong. Try to figure out what part you played. In most cases, no one is blameless. Even though someone has wronged you, did you participate in the drama?

Even in the case of ongoing abuse, it is important that you take the responsibility to leave the situation. You may not have a lot of blame for what happened. It’s important to realize that you are not a victim!

You cannot change other people. You also can’t control them.  But you are responsible for your own feelings, actions and thoughts. It may not seem like you are in control when you are down. But you can decide when you want to turn things around.

3. Use empathy to replace anger.

If you are angry at someone, you can feel no compassion for them. It’s hard to forgive when you see them as a bad or uncaring person.

The world truly is not good and evil or right and wrong. The person that hurt you may not be terrible. Perhaps your significant other cheated or wronged you in another way. Try to feel empathy instead of anger.

Spend a little time trying to find empathy for them.  Try to understand why they did what they did or said. Do they think that you were at fault?

And try and imagine how he/she feels right now. It may be impossible to understand. But if you make the effort it will open up your empathy.

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4. Stop reliving the past and focus on the present.

By holding onto pain, you are reliving the event and keeping the emotional wounds fresh. You need to let go of the past to forgive and refocus on the future.

The past is over. When you think in terms of “letting go” you may be thinking about letting go of a person. But in reality, you need to let go of the past.

If you are having a disagreement with someone you love, keep it current. Deal only with today.  Don’t bring up past failures or problems.

The unhappiness, stress, and pain that you feel now has its roots in the past. It is baggage that you carry with you. This baggage keeps you from the present.

Instead, focus on the here and now.

5. Use meditation to achieve peace of mind.

Bring your focus back to the present moment. What is happening in your life right now? What joy can you find here?

Meditation is a powerful way to stay in the now and find joy. It is also a helpful tool to shift your focus from the past. Stay intentional.

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6. Forgiveness is for the forgiver, but you need to let them know.

As you shift to compassion and forgiveness, your anger will fade. By forgiving someone else you are finding peace.

It’s important to honor the act of forgiving. Let the person who hurt you know what is happening. You should have a conversation. Or write them a letter telling them that you forgive them.

You will notice that you feel some empathy and understanding. You may even want them to be happy.

You are letting go. You are no longer stuck. Now you can move on.  

When relationships end, there may be pain. But you don’t have to live with the pain forever. There is always an opportunity to begin again. Being able to forgive starts the process.

Forgiveness will not change the past. You don’t have to forget what happened. Simply forgiving someone will not change them. But it will change you.

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