Forgiveness is about healing inside from the hurt that was caused at the time. You may harbor resentment, anger, and other feelings toward someone else, but the hurt and pain are carried within you.
So how do you forgive and move on?
You start inside your own mind and explore what there is to heal inside you first and foremost.
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of forgiving other people. Some people have done things to others that cannot be undone, making the results of their behavior impossible to reverse.
I’ve talked about my stepfather’s unwelcome behavior in many episodes. Some of his behavior is not forgivable in my book.
However, that doesn’t mean I hold any ill feelings toward him and that is the key to real forgiveness. When you can get to a place of genuine apathy or even sympathy for someone who’s wronged you in some way, you will reach a place of true forgiveness because you are no longer affected by them.
Your level of hurt, anger, resentment, or whatever has been boiling inside of you determines the level at which you’ve forgiven.
Forgiving is not about for-giving the other person leniency, it’s about for-giving yourself a break for whatever you did or didn’t do at the time.
One day in 2005, I broke down in tears proclaiming how much I hated my stepfather. I released a lot of repressed pain and anger that day. Afterward, I came into a new place of love for him instead of all the hate that I carried around most of my life.
This feeling of love wasn’t for him specifically, nor was it an acceptance of his behavior, it was really a feeling of love in myself, for myself – or what he represented in my mind.
I was angry at the picture I painted of him.
In the canvas of my mind, I painted this evil, stupid, selfish person. However, this was my mind, my picture, my hurt, and my refusal to change it.
Therefore, I was really angry at a part of myself. After all, I put the canvas there and I painted the picture. He may have done reprehensible behavior, but since he’s no longer doing it I can either stop being angry or keep staring at that picture I created and continue to seethe.
I thought, “Wait, am I still mad at him or just the picture I made of him?”
People can wrong you and you can be rightfully angry at them for sure. But when they stop “wronging” you, do you stop being angry, or do you hold onto your anger?
I can understand wanting to hold onto it because letting it go feels like we’re letting them get away with what they did. But what really happens when we stay angry about what someone did to us, it holds us back from our own happiness.
You forfeit happiness when you hold on to anger towards someone else.
If you really want to “stick it to them” or get them back in some way, seek peace in yourself.
Imagine if all you had to do was forgive a part of yourself so you could move beyond the anger. In my opinion, that’s all you need to do.
This could be a very powerful realization if you are harboring anger or resentment toward anyone right now because they don’t even have to be alive to have forgiveness take place inside of you.
You might think, “Yeah, but they hurt me! They betrayed me! They are the ones to blame! The only way I can get to peace is if I forgive them and I don’t want to!”
The only way you’re going to let go of the anger is by doing these four steps:
- Accept who they were and what they did.
- Forgive yourself for being a victim to it.
- Learn the lesson and bring that knowledge with you.
- Accept who they are now and what they do today.
By accepting who they were and what they did, there’s no denying or resisting it. There’s no wanting it to be different and wishing they never did it. It just “is”, and you just have to accept that it happened.
By forgiving yourself for becoming a victim of their behavior, you give yourself a break so that you can stop wondering what you could have done differently.
Learning the lesson and taking it with you is something so powerful, you might even thank them for being your teacher (even though they could have been your worse nightmare).
And finally, accepting and knowing who they are today gives you guidance on how you will let them show up in your life or not.
It’s true that past behavior can often dictate future behavior, but sometimes people do change. If you chose to judge me based on what I did in my past, you may not want to read or listen to what I have to say. But because I’ve done a lot of healing in my life, I’ve changed my behavior and am (fortunately) no longer the same person I used to be.
Not all people go through healing like this, but some do. So you have an opportunity to forgive on a whole new level when the person who wronged you is no longer the same person. They can’t escape their past, but they can be given a chance to prove themselves in the present – if you want to let them do that.
It doesn’t mean you give everyone a second chance. Some people lose that opportunity and don’t have to be invited back into your life. If that’s what is most healthy for you, then follow that path.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reach out to the person you want to forgive necessarily (although, you can if that’s how you want to do it). It’s more about checking in with yourself and figuring out what you’re most upset about in you. Then forgive that part of you for ever getting into that situation in the first place.
What happened in the past may not be your fault but it is your choice to continue being upset by it or not.
Sometimes people make mistakes and we take them back. And sometimes we realize that they truly are toxic and unhealthy to be around so we choose to keep them out of our lives. But letting them move on without our anger gives them the chance to finally be free of their ability to control us. And when they no longer have control over us (because we are not angry with them any longer), they can choose to heal, grow, and learn from their dastardly deed… or not.
Either way, we want to grow. You want to grow and not be held back by some anger or resentment toward what is really just a part of yourself.
Forgive that part of you and you’ll clear a path for peace and happiness to enter into your life once again.
I created an episode that dives further into forgiveness here.