How to forgive those who have wronged us?
Something we all struggle with at some point in our life.
Out of all the experiences, the ones most deeply embedded into our memory are those of betrayal. We forget a lot of things but we never forget the hurt caused by our loved ones.
Especially painful are instances of poor judgement that leave us feeling foolish, insecure, and to a certain degree, emotionally crippled and incapable of trusting our own intelligence. We may survive the consequent trauma but we carry the resentment, anger, and pain like a living, breathing thing within us, eating away at our self-confidence, self-esteem, and our ability to feel joy.
You may not even realize it but if you’re holding onto anger against someone, you’re causing physical, mental, and emotional harm. More importantly, you’re denying yourself all that you’re capable of becoming if you would just shift your focus onto something positive and productive.In fact, nurturing resentment and anger could be almost addictive.
Every time you recall the moment of anger, it triggers adrenaline in your body and fuels a series of negative emotions, and before you know it, you’re simply relieving the whole incident all over again – keeping the pain intact and alive.
Constant need for vindication may keep you from seeing the concerned incident in a clear light. It may lead to you playing the victim in a situation that’s a learning experience at best and a forgettable incident at worst.
Forgiving someone doesn’t diminish your pain nor does it necessitate a resumption of the old relationship.
You’ve experienced something that has left you hurt and in pain, whether you choose to play the victim, the survivor, or the fighter is upto you. Hugging the hurt to your chest will make you a victim.
Processing the hurt and moving on with your life makes you a survivor, but when you learn from the experience and grow with it, it makes you a fighter. None of these scenarios require you to declare your forgiveness or allow the person back into your life.
Someone does something wrong and depending on its nature, they deserve to be punished. In certain circumstances, the said punishment may call for the intervention of external parties.
Here’s how you can TRY to forgive the past and let go of all the negative emotions -
1. Know and understand that it’s an act of self-love
An article on the John Hopkins Medicine website states that forgiveness impacts our health.
Studies show that the act of forgiveness has a positive impact on our blood pressure, lowers risk of heart failure; it improves cholesterol levels and mental health. Also, adults with grudges are more likely to experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Psychology Today shared in an article, ‘Quality empirical research has shown that when we are better at forgiveness we experience lower stress, tension, levels of depression, anxiety, and perhaps most important, anger.’
Apart from the health aspect, forgiveness may also bring you peace.
My need for spiritual strength was triggered by the hurt I experienced at the hands of certain people. I processed everything obsessively. I wrote about it, discussed it with my therapist, and meditated on it till I found some sort of acceptance. I never received an apology but I found enough strength to forgive with my focus trained on my need to nurture my soul.
Today, when I recall those particular events, I can only feel gratitude for that huge learning experience. I am stronger and wiser for it.
So, if there is something you’re holding onto, I implore you to find an outlet. It will be the biggest act of self-love. You’ll feel the change in every part of you.
You will liberate your body, mind, and soul from the shackles of bitterness and heartbreak. It will open the doors to growth, happiness, and better relationships.
2. Label it your 'Kensho moment'
Kensho is growth by pain, as described by Michael Beckwith.
When pain enters our life it prompts us to make a shift towards growth-oriented change.
Instead of viewing the painful moments of your life emotionally, label them as a ‘Kensho moment’. Its intent was to help you grow.
You get to learn and then, you get to move on. When these moments hit us, they lead to the loss of emotional balance, mental health issues, and even physical disruption. Overtime, as the process of recovery ensues, when we bounce back, we come out stronger than before.
3. Establish boundaries and Defense mechanisms
This is something that I particularly find useful.
As you try to forgive someone, start by establishing new boundaries. Even if it’s something as traumatic as mugging. You forgive by putting in new security measures. Learn self-defence and decide on changing a particular type of behaviour. In the instance of a mugging, maybe you decide not to travel home alone or take a different route in future.
As you strengthen your own defence mechanism, you dissociate from the role of a victim by ensuring that you’ll never experience a similar trauma again. You forgive and let go by empowering yourself in a tangible way.
You adopt boundaries that give you peace of mind and allow you to let go of the negativity and hurt keeping you down. This practice is most effective when it comes to emotional betrayal. The people I have forgiven will never have the sort of access to my emotions they did before, and I’ll be considerably more careful with my trust in future.
Related: Signs of a toxic person
4. Understanding and Empathy
Often, understanding the cause of the behaviour can help heal the wound.
Hurt people hurt people.
Happy people don’t go around inflicting hurt on others; people in pain lash out. Emotional and mental issues can lead us down dark paths. When someone hurts you, take a moment and consider the fact that this person may have experienced similar treatment at the hands of a third person.
Now, you get to end the cycle. Instead of carrying around the pain and retaliating, show kindness.
Think about what personal burden they may be carrying that led them to behave in this manner. Perhaps, you’ll find your anger turning into empathy.
5. Communicate the hurt and pain
Talking about the pain could be cathartic. Sharing the trauma with another person will also invite objectivity into a highly emotional situation. This could help reach a resolution or at least lessen the pain.
6. Focused Exercises
Studies have shown that writing letters can aid the healing process in the wake of a trauma. Writing with the non-dominant hand may temporarily suspend the analytical and judgemental part of your brain, letting the emotions flow freely.
Another effective method is visualization.
Go into a deep meditative state. Think about the person you want to forgive. Allow yourself to experience the anger and all the accompanying negative emotions. Then, visualise this person standing in front of you and try to understand why they wronged you.
Try to feel empathy for them.
Once you feel the shift in your emotions towards something more compassionate and empathetic, visualise yourself forgiving this person and embracing them with love.
Praying and meditating may also help. Maintain a gratitude journal. It will help shift focus from the negative to something positive and uplifting.
I am aware that certain encounters or experiences in our life are so extremely hurtful that it’s almost impossible for an uninvolved party to understand but at the same time, you must remember that there is nothing to be gained by holding onto anger, resentment, or bitterness.
Revenge is not a solution. It may give you a moment of satisfaction but if you haven’t made peace with the situation, the bitterness will return. An apology may also leave you feeling underwhelmed.
Forgive and let go of the bitterness and heartache. The world is too beautiful and life is too short to be anything but happy.