Learning to Forgive
Forgiveness is so important to your happiness, but practicing forgiveness is much harder than just saying, “I forgive you”. Forgiveness is part of the Lords prayer “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and this should be our first clue that forgiveness is really important to our happiness. Forgiveness lets us get rid of all of that baggage we are a carrying around and lightens our load so we can make room for more knowledge, more happiness and more contentment in our lives.
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What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a hard thing to define, we all sort of know what it means, but it is hard to put into words. Miriam Webster to the rescue. According to Miriam Webster forgive means “to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)”. Notice that it talks about your feelings, not the other person’s feelings because forgiving releases you, not the other person.
Why is it Important to Forgive?
Let’s say when you were in college, a friend starts dating the boy you were dating at the time. Wow, not a great friend. That friend and the boy end up getting married and now 10 years later have 2 children and a nice home. You are single and struggling to make ends meet and it is ALL HER FAULT. If she had just left him alone you would be the one the children, husband, and home.
First, you don’t know with any amount of certainty that you would have married the boy. Second, until your forgive your former friend, you will never be able to move on with your own life. Until you release yourself of that anger and blame, you will not be able to be happy in your own life. Forgiving your former friend does not mean that you will be BFF’s again. It simply means that you have said, “What you did was wrong, but I will move on and let go of the anger”. Forgiving someone does not validate what they did or make it right. Remember, not forgiving someone gives them power over you, not the other way around.
Sometimes we are afraid to forgive, afraid that people will forget how that person hurt you, that if we forgive them we have to let them back into our lives. None of that is true when you truly forgive someone it is like taking 30 bags to the airport and walking out with your carry on. You will be that much lighter.
Learning to Forgive
You don’t just go out one day and forgive all of those that have trespassed against you, it takes a little bit of effort to learn how to acknowledge your feelings, yet in the end still forgive the other person.
- Pray about it. If you are not quite ready to forgive someone, ask God to forgive them first. Then ask for his help in forgiving them.
- Talk it out. Talk about it with a friend or spouse. Sometimes you need to vent a little bit to get some of the emotion out, and that’s okay. Have coffee with a friend and leave all of that anger and blame at the restaurant.
- Write it out. Journal about what happened and how you feel. This one is especially helpful when learning to forgive yourself. Write down your thoughts and feelings on the subject, and see if you can find a way to leave it on the page, instead of in your heart.
This one is the toughest for many of us, we are usually harder on ourselves than we are on other people. We expect ourselves to be great people, but sometimes, we aren’t. Sometimes we do things that we wish we didn’t do, and those things always have consequences. So how do you forgive yourself? The same way you forgive other people.
The same tips from above apply to yourself as to other people, but you need to add apologizing to the list above. Apologizing may or may not make the other person feel better, but it is important for you that you do apologize. This gives you a sense of doing something to help make things right.
After you apologize, pray, write, talk or all of the above and then leave it alone. You do not need to carry that baggage, every one of us has done something wrong, you are no different. Give yourself permission to move on and then do it.
Imagine a world without forgiveness, no one would speak to each other. Everyone would be miserable sods out to protect themselves from each other. Love would crumble, communities would crumble and we would be left alone to fret and worry about who would hurt us next. Learn to forgive, your happiness depends on it.