If you’re like us, chances are you’ve been hurt by someone else at one time or another. Maybe you were treated badly; maybe your heart was broken; maybe someone broke your trust.
Whatever it was, it hurt. And considering that pain can linger, it may still hurt. Maybe you still hold a grudge. Maybe you still play over and over what happened in your mind. Maybe you have a hard time letting go.
If so, it’s only making matters worse. It’s distracting. It ruins relationships. It traps us in a vicious, bitter cycle of negativity, anger, and hurt. And all the while, we’re missing out on the beauty of life, family, and friends.
We need to learn to forgive and let go so we can move on and be happy. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but when you do, it can change your life. You can finally move on, be happy, and live the life you were meant to.
Importantly, forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting. You can’t erase the past. And you can’t change (or control) the person who hurt you. Forgiveness does mean, however, that you are letting go of the anger, pain, and negativity that you’re harboring. That ship is sailing, and you’re moving onto a new destination—a better, healthier, happier place.
If you’re holding onto pain and anger and having a hard time letting go, here are 8 things that can be helpful in the forgiving process.
1. Commit to letting go. The first step in the process is becoming aware of the pain and how it’s hurting you. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but when you commit to change, you set the wheels in motion for letting go.
2. Think about the ways it affects you. Think about all the areas of your life this pain affects you. Think about all the problems it causes. Think about all the other people and relationships it affects. Then think about all the benefits that can come from letting go and forgiving.
3. Recognize you have a choice. Even though you can’t control the thoughts and actions of others, you are in the driver’s seat of your own. You can choose to move on. You can choose to stop replaying and reliving the hurt, pain, and anger over and over. You have this power.
4. Empathize. People aren’t inherently villainous, and that includes whoever hurt you. We’re all human, and we’re all sinners—none of us is perfect. That’s not an excuse, and it doesn’t make hurting other rights. However, we have to at least try to be understanding of others. Try putting yourself in the others person’s shoes. How could his past have influenced his actions? How do you think he felt before, during, and after? How do you think he feels now?
5. Understand your role. Try to think about what responsibility, if any, you might have had for what happened. Is there anything you could have done to prevent it? This doesn’t mean you need to take the blame or discount responsibility from the other person. Just try to take an objective view of what happened.
6. Focus on the present. The past is the past. Whatever happened, happened in the past. The only place it still exists in the present is in your mind. In other words, it’s not still happening. But it causes problems when you replay it in your mind over and over. Instead of reliving it, focus on the present and the joy in your life now. When your thoughts stray to the past, recognize it, and bring them back to the present.
7. Allow peace to enter your life. As you shift your focus to the present, begin to hone in on your breath. With each breath out, imagine the pain, anger, and past leaving your body. With each breath in, imagine peace entering and filling you up. Release the past and all the negativity you’re harboring. Focus on the present and the peace you’re breathing in.
8. Feel compassion. Lastly, forgive the person who offended you, and when you do, allow yourself to be happy and move on. That bears repetition: Allow yourself to be happy—you deserve it. And beyond just forgiving the other person, wish them happiness as well so that they move on to a better place in their life.