Four Steps to Forgiving Someone Who's Hurt You
How do you forgive someone who is not sorry or will never apologize? What if the person who hurt you did it on purpose?
Forgiving someone like this—or anyone for that matter—is hard, but not impossible.
First of all, what is forgiveness? My favorite definition of forgiveness came from Oprah who quoted a guest she had on her show who said, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.”
We can’t change what happened in the past. The important thing is accepting what happened and letting it go. When I got divorced, I needed to do a lot of forgiving and letting go because I was tired of carrying things that no longer served me.
Here are four things I did that helped me for forgive, accept and move on.
First, I needed to forgive things I’d never get an apology for. I really felt like I needed an apology, so I sat down late at night with my cat by my side, and I wrote myself apology letters from the people who I needed apologies from. I literally wrote down, “Dear Jennifer, I’m sorry I hurt you. You deserved so much better,” and so on.
Writing letters to myself from people who owed me an apology was very healing. I said the things I needed to hear, and I was able to see those people in a different light which somehow gave me more compassion for them. Does this mean I thought what they did was acceptable? No. Does this mean I allowed them to hurt me again and again? No.
Writing the apologies gave me a way to accept what I needed to accept, and it gave me a way to experience my grief and to give myself some of the love back that I always deserved.
Secondly, I prayed. I’m not trying to promote any specific kind of religion with this recommendation, but I did not know how to forgive some of the things I needed to forgive, so I asked for help through my prayers. Whatever your spiritual practice is, my experience has been that relying upon it for the help you need does work eventually. Praying for the ability to forgive didn’t instantly help, but where I’m standing now, is not where I once stood. I believe prayer helped me get to a better place.
The third thing I did was allow myself to be angry and grieve. It sounds simple, but I was afraid to be so enraged because when I encountered the anger of other people, it always felt unsafe to me. My anger felt unsafe as well. I also needed to grieve the things I once wanted but never got to experience. A divorce is like a death because part of me did die. My old desires, my old relationships, and who I once was died with the relationship. I needed to feel mad, and I needed to cry a lot.
Forgiveness is a form of loss, but in a good way. You are going to lose the pain that probably has been with you a long time, and you will feel different once you let it go. Forgiving means you are breaking your bond to familiar stories or perhaps to a person that may be hard to let go of.
Lastly, I did activities that brought me joy. Doing this took a lot of courage at the time, because there were times when I felt too sad to move or speak, and I felt like zero.
I walked by a dance studio for months, and one day I built up the courage go to in and ask about prices for lessons. Eventually, I built up the courage to go in and sign up for salsa lessons. I then started making space for something else besides sadness and hurt.
As I started letting go of the clutter of my old feelings, I cleared space for something else to exist there, and I filled that spot with things that made me smile and laugh.
Forgiveness is not an easy process, but it’s possible, necessary and life changing when complete. These things worked for me. I hope you can find success with forgiveness so you can experience joy instead of sadness and hurt.