It’s amazing how much power an 11-letter word holds. It has the power to release freedom and happiness. It has the power to allow us to move forward without ever having to focus on the past. When we fail to forgive, it has the power to bind us and hold us captive to hurt and pain. It has the power to leave us miserable, unhappy, and trapped in a cycle of anger and unease.
We have all experienced some level of hurt. Whether we were mistreated, left brokenhearted, or lost our faith or trust in someone, we all have felt pain.
How do we move past it? How do we stop reliving the same scenario, the same hurt, the same grief, over and over again? How do we truly let go?
We cannot change the past. We also cannot change people. With this in mind, it is important to remember what forgiveness is really about. Forgiveness is not about erasing the past. The past can never be erased. It isn’t simply forgetting what has happened. Sometimes it’s beneficial to remember the pain so we don’t have to endure it again. It is not about making someone else see their faults or expecting your forgiveness to change their behaviors.
Forgiveness, instead, is about giving you the power to accept the situation for what it is or was, letting go, moving past anger and pain, and moving into a better and healthier place.
To reach a place of forgiveness, the following is necessary:
- We need to look at our role in the situation. It is often really easy to find fault with the other party, and sometimes they really are at fault. However, it is important to look at our role as well. What could we have done differently? Are we partially responsible? If we have some responsibility and we are able to accept that responsibility, it makes it a little easier to consider this next suggestion.
- Have some empathy. Often we make the assumption that we have been wronged intentionally when this is not always the case. We should try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Think about how they may have been feeling or what they may have been thinking. Try to consider not only how they were feeling then, but how they are also feeling now. By having empathy, we are sometimes able to understand, which makes it easier to forgive.
- Remember you have the power and you are in control of yourself. No one can drive your car unless you give them the keys and let them take the wheel. No one has control over our emotions but us. No one has the power to make us dwell on past situations but us. If we are stuck it is because we have made that choice. We can easily make the choice to move forward and forgive.
- We have to make a commitment to move on. If forgiving someone was easy, everyone would do it and we’d live in a world with no past hurts or resentments. Wouldn’t that be nice? Forgiveness isn’t easy and it can’t always be done overnight. Recognize that the amount of hurt, resentment, anger, or pain you feel developed over time. It is likely that it is going to take time to work through those feelings and come to the place where you can truly forgive.
- Let go of the past. The past is over. The only place the past takes place is in your mind. The only person that can keep you in your past is you.
- Wish the ones who hurt you well. We can’t say we truly forgive someone and wish them hurt or harm. Once we make the conscious decision to forgive someone, we have to move on. We may have to love them from a distance and wish them well in our hearts. Forgiving and learning to love those who hurt us in spite of the things they have done is one of the most powerful pieces of all.
Mahatma Gandhi said “the weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Find your inner strength to forgive others and discover the happiness and the freedom you deserve.
White, D. (2013). Finding Freedom in Forgiveness. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/finding-freedom-in-forgiveness/00015739
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Mar 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.