Some people stay in abusive or toxic situations because they think that they should just repeatedly forgive the person or people who are inappropriately hurting them. They ignore their own needs and put up with injustices thinking that the others will change or that things will get better. Lack of assertiveness, low self-worth or the idea that there aren’t any options, hold them as prisoners when that isn’t healthy or necessary. Just because you married, gave birth to or were hired by someone who treats you poorly doesn’t mean that you have to allow yourself to be their target.
Other individuals have the opposite problem. They emotionally and mentally hold on to words or situations without being able to forgive. Sometimes the offender is dead, or a great deal of time has passed yet the hurt is still preventing the victim from living free of bad memories. The one who hurt you might not even realize that you are suffering and that they caused this.
Regret results when people are not able to forgive themselves. They may be stuck thinking about something that they said or did in the past that cannot be changed. Holding onto the idea that one has not made good choices or done wrong, however, only leads to illness or depression.
Forgiveness is not about completely forgetting what happened. In fact, it is important to consider how poor judgement or unhealthy relationships occurred so that you can prevent similar situations from happening again. There is an old expression that states, “experience is something you wish was happening to the other guy!” Experience, however, builds character.
Forgiveness is about letting go. It involves a firm decision to not allow the hurt or person to have power over your life. It allows you to live free from the pain that otherwise would continue to steal your time, energy and focus.
Following are some steps that will help you to move towards forgiveness:
- On a blank piece of paper write down one sentence that clearly describes the unresolved hurt. For example, you might write “I was abused as a child”.
- Under that, write one sentence that describes who hurt you and how this was done. You might write something like “My father called me horrible names and hit me”.
- Then write one sentence about your role in this. Perhaps you will write “Sometimes I provoked him on purpose just to get even”.
- Next write a sentence that describes how this situation continues to affect you. “I continually doubt myself and never really trust anyone”.
- The following sentence will dispute and reframe the old memories that have been haunting you. You might write “Messages from the past can only control me if I allow them to do so”.
- Finally, write a sentence that describes what you are going to do from today forward. “I will let go of the negative messages, recognize my strengths and replace hurt with thankfulness.” Memorize this statement and repeat it over and over again when the old thoughts appear.
Learning how to forgive takes work and commitment but will reward you with long-term joy and peace.