One of the greatest life lessons I have learned is how to forgive the people who had hurt me. It was an important part of my healing journey and helped me become the fulfilled person I am today. I’ll admit, it wasn’t a quick or linear process, but over the course of several years, I began to understand that when we forgive others, it is as much for us as it is for them—if not more so.
I initially struggled with forgiving anyone because I didn’t feel like the people in my life who had hurt me deserved it—especially my father for whom I maintained a laundry list of transgressions. It felt as though by forgiving him, I was letting him off the hook for all the pain he had caused me. But eventually, I realized that his shortcomings as a father were a reflection of his own struggles in life, and that he was doing the best he could with what he had.
Forgiveness Makes You Emotionally Stronger
Holding onto feelings like anger, hatred, and pain is a way people create boundaries and avoid getting hurt again by someone. While emotions such as these may give you a sense of protection, they are ultimately toxic and punish you as much as the one who hurt you. As the saying goes: “It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”Holding onto feelings like anger, hatred, and pain is a way for people to create boundaries and avoid getting hurt again, but emotions such as these are ultimately toxic and punish you as much as the other person. Click To Tweet
It’s very important to understand that forgiveness is not condoning what happened or saying it was okay. Rather, the act of forgiving others is much more about creating peace inside yourself despite the painful things that happened, because they happened—there is no erasing the past.
When you refuse to let go of your grievances against others, it lets them retain some degree of power over you. Now I absolutely understand that there are some heinous acts that don’t seem as though they’re forgivable. When that is the case and you don’t feel like you can do it for the other person (or people), is it possible you can at least start doing it for yourself? Because when you do, you regain control over your emotions rather than let someone else be in charge of how you feel.
Letting Go of Past Hurts Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Believe me, I didn’t wake up one morning saying, “Today’s the day I am going to forgive my father for all the pain he caused me!” It was a slow process as I worked to release the hurt inside of myself. I realized that forgiveness is not only a feeling, but also an intentional action that requires regular practice, so each day I chipped away at it and finally broke through my own resistance.
Practice Forgiveness with These 4 Strategies
Since forgiveness isn’t something most people can easily rush, making a small effort every day—even when you don’t really feel like it—can help you make progress in releasing the burden of what happened.
The following strategies can be helpful in guiding you to forgive a person who has hurt you in some meaningful way.
- Set Better Boundaries: Forgiveness and boundaries are connected. Many people have difficulty forgiving because they have a hard time drawing appropriate boundaries, and as I mentioned above, they use their bitterness as the boundary instead. Understanding and setting your own healthy boundaries teaches others what is and what IS NOT okay for you.
- Meditation or Prayer: When you quiet your mind with meditation or prayer, it can help you work through and release your pain. It also promotes positive changes in your brain. To help you get started, I invite you to join me for my free Forgiveness Meditation. I think you will appreciate the subtle benefits it invokes.
- Use Your Journal: Write about what happened and your experience of it. Also—and if appropriate—try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What was going on that caused her or him to behave the way they did? Remember, you are not saying what they did was acceptable, rather you are processing the events to help you release their control over you.
- Supplement to Support Your Brain: I know when I go through changes in my life, I can have a harder time putting the brakes on my busy mind. One of my favorite supplements to help with this is GABA, a nutrient known for soothing stress and anxious thoughts. It makes me feel less jittery and more grounded, so I can stay focused on the things that are important to me.
By forgiving the people who hurt me, I have been able to integrate the difficult experiences of my past into my life in a way that has made me even stronger. And I know with practice, this can happen for you too!
For more inspiration, order my new memoir, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer. To help calm stress and promote more positive moods, try GABA Calming Support at BrainMD. Want 21% off? Enter TANA21 at checkout. It’s that easy! And if you can’t get past the pain others have caused you, consider making an appointment with a mental healthcare professional at Amen Clinics by calling 844-818-0616 or visit our contact page here.