On forgiveness: Why and how we should forgive

I used to want to hate my way out of hurt. I thought that if I hated someone enough, I could erase them from my life. Of course, that backfired. The thought of them only kept the anger sizzling inside me longer. I finally realized that I would never be able to delete the person or the hurt they had caused completely, I had to do away with the anger, find a way to change my feelings about the whole situation, to slowly process my feelings and move on. I learned that I should forgive the people in my life who hurt me, not necessarily for their sake but to best take care of myself.

People hurt other people, it’s a simple fact of life. We hold steadfast to grudges, unable to erase the pain or the people who caused it. Holding onto resentments takes up space in our minds and valuable time we could be spending in more constructive ways. Revisiting the hurt only fuels more anger and resentment, going over it in our minds like a bad television rerun, and we’re unable to change the plot.

Forgiving is not easy and forgetting is almost impossible. To get there we have to view the person who wronged us under a different light and make peace with them, if not in person, at least in our hearts and minds. But how do we get there? How can we forgive if we cannot change what has happened? We can’t decide just like that, from one moment to another, to change how we feel. We can, however, ease into a different way of feeling and thinking about the situation.

Recently, I read a quote that spoke to me: “People hurt you and it’s their fault, allow them to hurt you again and it’s your fault.” Maybe too extreme and it might not always work that way, but it’s thought-provoking when you are trying to let go of anger and pain from the past. Maybe, just maybe, you enabled the incident or had something to do with the process that caused you the pain in the first place? Either way, forgiveness is key to moving on, processing, and gaining that peace of mind we’re all looking for.

How to get to a place of forgiveness:

  1. Be as impartial as possible. Look at the situation when you are able to distance yourself enough. Try to understand what it is that made you so angry. Can you see the other person’s side? Are you partly to blame?
  2. Try to think of things you liked about this person even if now you only see red at the thought of them. Practice liking them again for how they were before they wronged you.
  3. Don’t obsess about them. When you catch yourself going over the hurtful episode, turn it off. Try to focus on something else. Read a book!
  4. If you love this person and they are still going to be part of your life, figure out a way to clear the air. Talk to them dispassionately. Tell them how you feel without becoming defensive or overly offensive. Even if you don’t agree at the end, try to find a middle ground.
  5. Allow yourself time, the longer the better. Whatever happened between you will seem less important as time passes
  6. Write down how you feel. If you must, write an e-mail you may never send. If you do, make sure it sits for a while as a draft. Read it again and then decide whether you will send it or, most likely, you will feel better simply having released your frustrations in writing and you’ll hit the delete key.
  7. Talk to an outsider, the more removed the better. Another outlook and more impartial view might help you put things into perspective.
  8. Last and probably most importantly, life is too short to be wasted on anger that could make you sick. In an article at Psych Central, according to psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch at Concordia University, anger and resentment, when harbored for a long time, may bring about patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease. No conflict between family or friends is worth risking your health over. When all other forgiveness strategies seem to fail you, take some time, think of yourself and your own well-being, and remember, this too shall pass.


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