We have all suffered hurts and betrayals. The mistake most people make is believing that if they hold onto their anger and pain they are somehow punishing the offender. They are gravely mistaken.
“Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get hurt or die.”
It is important to realise that your angry thoughts are what are hurting you now, not the people from your past. Investing your energy in painful memories and holding onto a grievance is really a decision to keep suffering.
You don’t have to forgive because it is something you “should do”, or to be a “better” person. It isn’t for them or about them at all.
Forgiveness is for you – so you can be free of the anger, hurt and resentment that arises again and again from the memory of these incidents. Resentment keeps you stuck in the past while forgiveness releases you to move into the present moment so that you can focus your time and energy on things that will make you happier.
Some people struggle to forgive because they think that forgiveness means condoning unaccepatble behaviour. Forgiveness does not involve excusing the person’s actions, forgetting what happened, or tossing justice aside. Justice and forgiveness can be practised together.
Also to forgive is not the same as to reconcile. If there is no mutual trust, then forgiveness does not need to lead to forced reunions. There may be some people you are better never to see or hear from again.
Of course it’s not easy to forgive, but what else is there to do? Hold onto the resentment so you continue to suffer? You’ve already been hurt, why continue to inflict further suffering on yourself?
There is no timetable to the process of forgiveness, especially when there has been deep betrayal. However the following tips can help you move through that process.
Tips to cultivate forgiveness
- Make a decision to not to let the past hurts and betrayals dominate your entire existence.
- Keep a journal or write a letter in which you work on letting go resentment towards someone who has hurt or wronged you.
- Instead of rehashing the past, choose to stop upsetting yourself and bring your attention to the present moment.
- Let go of the wish that the other person will understand or suffer for what they have done. They may never understand, or suffer ‘enough’. This must cease to be your business.
- Stop hoping that one day an apology will magically materialise and set you free. Often the offender is unaware of their offence or the need to apologise.
- Take time to discover what you have learned from this painful situation, so that you can begin to see the “gifts” in it.
- Don’t feed the hurt. Strictly censor how often you talk about the person or the offence.
Forgiveness does not come easily to most of us, so please contact me if you need support to release yourself from the pain of past betrayals.
Also email me with your contact details if you would like to receive a free handout called “Nine essential steps to forgive”.
Annemarie Coulson is a Hamilton based happiness coach. She aims to help you become happier with yourself and your life now, while also making changes to improve your future. If you are curious to know more, visit her updated new website at www.lifecoacher.co.nz or phone 021 076 5450. The new website has three interesting quizzes to take, and heaps of useful free information to download.