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Forgiving a friend may not be easy, but it could be good for your mental health.
There’s no sugar coating it: it hurts to be hurt by a friend.
When a friend wrongs you, you may question whether the friendship is worth keeping. Yet, even if you feel uncertain about whether you can fix the friendship, practicing forgiveness could be good for your mental health — on top of good for your relationship.
Thus forgiveness may be worth exploring while you explore if the friendship is worth saving.
Forgiveness is a part of friendship, and getting hurt by a friend — even your best friend — is not uncommon.
When a friend hurts you, it often has less to do with you and more on “their past pain and what’s going on with their life,” explains Antoinette Beauchamp, a certified leadership coach specializing in communication and relationship management.
If you’re trying to decide whether you can still be friends, the real question to ask yourself, according to Beauchamp, is, “can you be friends with someone who hurt you without resentment?”
If you don’t think you can forgive the hurt, then “having an authentic friendship will be difficult — and the pain will likely resurface, causing another argument later,” says Beauchamp.
How to determine if the friendship should be fixed
Determining if a friendship should be fixed “depends on how much you value the friendship and whether or not you’re willing to work through the hurt,” suggests Dr. Harold Hong, a board certified psychiatrist in North Carolina.
Your choice to fix the friendship may also depend on the outcome of your confrontation. “If they’re defensive or refuse to take responsibility, you may need to reconsider your decision to stay friends,” says Hong. “You don’t want to lose yourself in a friendship or be with someone who doesn’t value your feelings.”
On the other hand, if they are receptive and apologetic, and you know you want to stay friends, Beauchamp suggests taking the time you need to heal and returning to the friendship when you feel ready and open.
“Confronting a friend who hurt you will not be easy,” notes Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, a board-certified psychiatrist in Texas. “The confrontation needs to be planned, so any overwhelming feelings don’t make the process difficult to restore.”
Gonzalez-Berrios recommends the following steps:
- Prepare yourself for what you want to talk about.
- Stay composed while you explain how they hurt you.
- Let your friend give a viable explanation — and listen.
- Avoid arguing, but be assertive with your point of view.
- Be clear about your boundaries in the relationship.
“Be honest about your feelings and use ‘I’ statements to express yourself,” suggests Hong. “For example, ‘I felt disrespected when you raised your voice at me in front of others.”’
From there, Hong suggests you try to explain how you would like the situation to be handled differently in the future. “For example, ‘In the future, I would appreciate it if you would talk with me privately if you’re upset with me instead of yelling at me in front of others.'”
It’s also critical that you give your friend a chance to respond. “Your friend may not have realized their actions were hurtful, so this is an opportunity for them to understand your perspective,” says Hong.
And while confrontation may feel intimidating, Beauchamp reminds us that giving honest feedback is sometimes the most loving thing you can do.”
“To reconcile a friendship, be honest, communicate, and create a path forward together,” says Beauchamp.
It’s also important to let go of resentment. “Holding onto anger and resentment will only damage your mental health and prevent you from moving on,” explains Hong. “Try to let go of negative feelings and focus on the positive aspects of your friendship.”
“You can also forgive and then steer clear of them in the future if you feel it’s in your best interest,” says Hong. “In fact, mental health experts recommend forgiving those who have hurt you to improve your mental health and well-being.”
Remember that when healing a friendship, you also need to heal yourself. Beauchamp suggests turning to tools such as meditation, breathwork, and journaling to help you process any complex emotions.
You also don’t have to heal alone. “If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to [another] trusted friend or family member for support,” says Hong. “Seeking mental health assistance can also help you process your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.”
Forgiving a friend won’t always be easy, and it may take some time for things to return to normal.
Still, forgiveness and healing are possible if both you and your friend are willing to work on the relationship. And either way, your mental health will thank you for practicing forgiveness.
“Friendships are like all other relationships, there are stages and phases, and things change. And that’s okay,” says Beauchamp. In fact, things may change for the better, even if it’s not in a way you expected.