An unavoidable part of the human condition is getting hurt. Whether it be a minor, moderate, or traumatizing pain, we are all put in the position of having to forgive.

What happens when forgiving someone feels like letting them get away with it? What happens when the person you have to forgive is yourself?

Sometimes forgiving hurts. 

When we feel wronged, we tend to hold anger. We bottle it up inside ourselves; adding fuel to it when we replay it in our heads. It’s hard to not think about it, and trying not to think about it only makes it worse. How can you not think about a thorn pressing against your skin? It’s a prickly vicious cycle.

The question is…who is that thorn really hurting? Are you causing them pain by holding on to that anger? Is their soul tortured, is the resentment leaching away at them with every passing day? Are they affected at all?

No. They’re not.

So then why are we willingly to hold on to the pain?

Trust me, I get it. It’s not easy to consciously forgive. In fact, I’ve held the same grudge for years now. Part of me doesn’t want to forgive, I could swear up and down that he/she doesn’t deserve it. You’d probably agree that they don’t. But guess what? I deserve it.

I deserve some peace. It will hurt to let go, yes. I will hate feeling like I let he/she get away with something awful. I will hate having to relive all the emotions I’ve stifled for years. For what else did this anger do but cover up everything I was actually feeling? It covered up my emotional pain, my disappointment, my shame, my secrets.

I have to face that in order to forgive. I have to search my inner self and draw these things from the box I hid them in. It’s freaking terrifying.

It’s even scarier when you have to forgive yourself. I can’t think of any situation in which self-love is more important. Whether it be an embarrassing mistake or a life changing decision, own up to it. Learn from it. Decide that it will make you a better person instead of chaining you to your past.

You deserve peace. You deserve to love yourself and to accept other’s love. You deserve more.

Be willing to face the pain. Facing the pain head-on is a better alternative than feeling the resentment drain from your soul every day. Much like resetting or re-breaking a bone to allow it to heal properly, sometimes you have to break your heart a little more in order to heal. It will be a long, scary, and painful process. But if you start today, you’ll be one step closer.

I believe in you.

A few tips, drawn from my struggle, to help you along the way:

Do change perspectives. Fact is most people act in selfish ways, rarely to intentionally hurt someone else. Shift how you see the situation, when something doesn’t feel like a personal attack…it’s easier to let go of feelings of betrayal and hurt.

Do forgive yourself. It’s okay to feel hurt, angry, betrayed, ashamed. It’s okay. It’s not okay to keep feeling that way all your life. Forgive yourself for your part in the story. Accept it as a learning point, a building of character, a necessary turn in life. Chances are if it didn’t happen, you wouldn’t be who  you are today. It’s up to you to make that a good thing.

Don’t ruminate. Don’t keep thinking about it, don’t replay it over and over again. Every time you do, you’re striking up the fire again and causing yourself more pain. When you feel your mind going to it again, force a change. You are strong enough to think about something else.

The exception to this is taking a moment to sit and think through the situation. This is a one-time event. The purpose isn’t to remember all the reasons we’re angry, it’s to allow ourselves to process the trauma.

Don’t try to force yourself to forget. It won’t work. Frankly, some things don’t deserve to be forgotten. (Even forgiving doesn’t actually have to do with them and if what they did was okay.) If you’re in any sort of abusive relationship, don’t “forgive and forget.” Forgive yourself for walking into that situation and love yourself for walking away. Humanity wasn’t built to forget, we were built to learn from our mistakes.

Some additional tips:

  • Try writing a letter to them (you don’t have to send it) expressing everything you feel. Or pretend they’re sitting next to you and tell them everything. The goal is to let it all go, to stop bottling up.
  • Remember it’s okay to feel. You don’t need to stifle your emotions.
  • Forgiving isn’t about them, you don’t even need to tell them. It’s about you.
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean what they did is okay.
  • Just because you forgive them, doesn’t mean you need to keep them in your life.
  • Don’t run away from the pain. It’s tempting, and I’ve done it for years now, but it will only extend the hurt. Trust me.

I wish you the best in your journey. See you on the other side.