Forgiving someone isn’t always easy.
To most people, to forgive means to stop feeling angry or to stop having resentment towards someone. It means to pardon someone for their mistakes and what they did to us.
When we are feeling hurt, this doesn’t seem quite possible.
But forgive is actually a form of giving too.
In old English, the word “forgive” has a deeper meaning — “forgive” means “forgiefan”. “For” means “completely”. “Giefan” means “give”. And together, it means “giving completely without reservation.”
When you forgive, you give as before. You give without reservation. You don’t withhold your love from the person who has hurt you.
Giving and receiving are both natural to humans. Forgive doesn’t require us to do anything more except to go back to our natural, loving being that we all are.
Resentment, anger and hatred only deviate us from the true nature of who we are and make us more unhappy.
Here’s how to forgive someone who hurt you emotionally.
1. Don’t rush or force it.
When someone hurts you, allow yourself to feel the emotions. Don’t suppress them, but at the same time, there’s no need to react to or express your emotions. You might get embarrassed with what you did when you became calmer afterward.
Know that taking revenge and hurting the other person will only hurt both of you further. The cycle doesn’t stop when you keep hating the other person. The cycle will only stop when one of you stop the flow of hatred.
Welcome your feelings.
Whenever your hurt feeling arises, just let it be there. Observe it. Feel the body sensation. Don’t feel like you need to do anything with the emotion or thought. Let it go if you can.
But if you can’t, there’s no need to force it or rush it. Just welcome your emotions. Forgiveness will come eventually with time.
2. Understand why you need to let go.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.” by Lewis B. Sredes.
Not long ago, my brother’s designs had been ripped off by some copycats and placed on Amazon. Even though taking appropriate actions against copycats is necessay, but he was spending way too many days agonizing over the issue. His mood was affected. He could be doing his artwork, but instead he chose to write complain letters to Amazon.
Sure, it’s not right of the copycats to rip off other people’s designs. But does taking down the imitations make my brother any happier? No! He knew the copycats could still upload his designs on another platform.
Forgive not for the other person, but forgive for yourself.
Know that holding on to your grudges is the same as holding onto suffering. It is super tiring to resent someone. It’s not about who’s right or who’s wrong here. Everyone is right in terms of their own perspectives. Forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to agree with their behavior. It just mean you don’t waste your time fighting with someone constantly.
3. Do the unthinkable — empathize.
We all had done something wrong in our life. If we were more conscious and if we had known better, we probably wouldn’t have done what we had done. Instead of labelling the other person as evil or bad, realize that the other person is unconscious. Most people are motivated by fear. Sometimes, we too are controlled by fear without our realization.
We can’t blame the other person for being unconscious.
Let me give you an example. When I’m teaching maths, some children can’t do the questions no matter how hard they tried and so they labelled themselves as stupid or lazy. Some parents would scold them for not paying attention or not putting in the effort. But the truth is you can’t blame them because they can’t see what they cannot see.
Some people are gifted in maths, they are able to see the patterns immediately, while other are gifted in other areas. If my students are able to see the patterns for their maths questions, they would have enjoyed maths. They wouldn’t be afraid of doing the questions and running away from them. I don’t think it’s fair to punish someone for their lack of awareness and perception.
And why waste your energy on someone who is unconscious of their action? You might be resenting the other person all these while. But for all you know, they might not even know they have done anything wrong!
4. Live in the present.
Our mind loves to go back to the past and replay the unhappy moments. In psychology, this compulsive focus on your problem is called rumination. Too much of it and it will lead to depression, anxiety and worry.
That’s what happened to me last year. I was hurt and I kept thinking about the problem until I had depression. I was trapped in this loop of thoughts, I was unconscious and I couldn’t get out of the loop.
What has happened has happened.
You can’t change what has happened. The past is in the past. Realize that whatever happens now, a minute or an hour later, it will become the past. We can always think about the past, but we cannot do anything to change it. All we have is now.
The inability to forgive would keep you trapped in the past. So tap into that peaceful place from within. Know that at this moment, there is no need to bring up the past. When you are able to live in the present, forgiveness comes naturally. You don’t even need to think about it.
5. Don’t take things personally.
Our ego loves to make things personal. Everything is about “me” and “I”. When you are unable to forgive, examine why is this so. See if it has anything to do with “me” and “I”:
- He betrayed me. How could I forgive him?
- If I forgive her means I condone what she did to me.
- If I let him off, I’ll be such a pushover.
- She was rude to me and not showing me any respect.
- How could he not remember my birthday?
Here’s a recent example from my life. I was supposed to give tuition but the student had a school event and didn’t tell me beforehand. That was the third time in two weeks, my students had bailed on me. I knew that the student was unintentional. She had forgotten to tell me.
But as I was on the bus travelling back home, my chest tightened and there was this anger coming out of nowhere:
“She made ME wait. She could have told ME earlier. I should demand her mum to pay ME extra money for wasting MY time travelling to her place.”
Be careful where you have been conditioned to feel angry.
The ego is very good at rallying our emotions and getting us to react. My ego knows how to push my buttons and make things personal. He knows I don’t like be called a pushover. So he wanted me to stand up for myself and don’t get bullied. He seemed to be on my side, but actually he set up this doormat self-image for me to defend.
Once I was aware of what my ego was trying to do, the anger dissolved. I felt the whole situation in my head is ridiculous. The parent is really sorry that her child didn’t show up. The student didn’t do it purposely. Why am I getting angry for no reason?
When I reached home, I told my family about it and my dad reacted exactly how my ego acted. I knew the voice came from my dad. My dad expected me to have some sort of reaction when I was being taken advantage of. But that’s not natural to me. What’s the use of being demanding and angry? The student is not going to magically appear right in front of me for me to teach.
I let it go and didn’t care if the parent were to refund me or not. It was okay. But in the end, the parents did give me a little extra for the transport even though I didn’t ask for it.
6. Let go of your expectations.
One reason why we find it difficult to forgive someone is because we expect them to do what we want.
- He should apologize to me first.
- She should have known better.
- He should have remembered.
The truth is we have too high an expectation for others. We expect others to be just like us — organized, do what they promised, be on time, remember all the details. But people aren’t like us. They have flaws. What you are good at might not what they are good at.
We have to take responsibilities for your part.
it’s never about the other person and what they do. It’s always about us. We can’t control what other people are going to do. But we can control whether we get offended or not. I see resentment as a cup of poison being served to you. You can choose to drink it or not. No one is forcing you.
7. Learn from the experience.
Forgive is a call for you to give. Especially if the other person is sorry, there’s no need to make them feel more guilty. Remember giving is receiving. When you are able to forgive, you would receive the teachings behind the experience.
Forgive and uncover the lessons behind the experience.
Depression is the best that could happen in my life. Not that I want to stay in that state. But when I was able to forgive the animation studio founder and let the incident go, I learned what I was supposed to learn from the experience.
It opened me up to new perspectives and new insights. Things I had conceptually known and understood, but didn’t have as great as an impact until I experienced them.
So when you feel it’s impossible to forgive, forgive anyway. There’s a hidden gem waiting for you to uncover.
Featured Photo Credit: I Will Never If You Never / Christian Gonzalez