How To Forgive Someone

The other day I posted about forgiveness.  Actually, I wrote a lot about what forgiveness is NOT.  Take a look.  Now that we know what forgiveness is (because there are a lot of misconceptions out there), how do we do it?

  1. Forgiveness can’t be forced.  We forgive people in our lives because we want to, and have gotten to a place where we are emotionally able to.  Forgiveness doesn’t happen because a) Someone apologized to us b) We feel like we should c) Someone bullies us into it.  Insincere or coerced forgiveness just isn’t the real deal.
  2. Forgiveness is about moving on.  When we decide to forgive someone, it means that we have decided that we want to move on from the experience, and actively release its hold on our emotions and behaviors.
  3. Forgiveness does not equal forgetting.  Most of us have pretty good memories, meaning that there is no way we will forget the harm that has been done.  Luckily, that’s not what forgiving is.  Instead, forgiving is saying something like: “I know exactly what happened to me and what it meant, but I am going to choose to look forward and move on with my life.  I realize what has happened in the past, but I am going to build my future in a different way; and not let that past hurt continue to cast a shadow over me.”
  4.  Forgiveness doesn’t always mean relationship.  Just because you have forgiven someone, doesn’t mean you have to stay in a relationship with them.  Forgiveness simply means releasing yourself from the power of the past event.  It has nothing to do with continuing on in a relationship.  When you choose to forgive AND stay in relationship with the transgressor, it does mean you will be making yourself vulnerable to future hurts.  Vulnerability is a big part of relationships no matter how you cut it.  But that’s a topic for another time.

Forgiveness is something that affects all of us as one time or another.  In fact, just about everyone experiences both sides of the coin: being the forgiver and the forgivee.  It’s an important skill in overall mental health.