If I were to ask my readers to raise their hands if they have ever found themselves NOT on speaking terms with a friend, a relative, a sibling or an ex, I bet a high percentage would wave their hands.
Unfortunately it is common to feel betrayed, hurt or violated in one way or another by the very people we are supposed to be able to count on for protection, love and support.
Celebrities and political and religious leaders often end up disappointing us and betraying our trust as well. Some of them try to ask for forgiveness publicly, but they sound self-serving and more focused on salvaging their own social standing than truly making amends.
Still, there are times when we really do want to forgive the person who has hurt us, but we’re not sure how to handle our conflicting feelings. How do we do that hard work? How do we find peace and healing after such betrayal and disappointment?
I recommend these 10 steps for forgiving others:
- Talk it out first with someone you trust. Explain exactly what happened and why you feel hurt and betrayed.
- Promise that you will take care of your hurt. Do what is necessary to feel better. In other words, forgiveness is for your benefit, not for anyone else’s.
- Remember that the goal of forgiveness is to find peace. You want to re-write the story so that it is less personal and less hurtful.
- Also remember that forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person who hurt you.
- Often times the hurt that was done may have passed, but what persists are the feelings, the stories we tell ourselves internally, our physical reactions. The hurt might have happened many months or even years ago. Forgiveness is healing from these feelings that seem to color how we see our lives and how we see ourselves.
- Every time the hurt and upset feelings come up, be gentle with yourself. Practice self-compassion.
- If someone is not able to give you what you want, lower your expectations and accept the limitations of the situation.
- Seek those needs in other relationships. Instead of continuing to play the hurt over and over in your mind, focus your energy on people who can help you get your positive goals met.
- Forgiveness is about personal power. A life well lived is the best resolution. Look for beauty and kindness all around you.
- Re-writing the story of the hurt is a courageous choice that only you can make.
Research on forgiveness from Stanford University shows that people who practice forgiveness improve their mental and physical health. Forgiveness also bolsters feelings of self-confidence and peace and fosters more positive relationships. In my work I am able to see the relief and joy that seems to fill people’s hearts every time they give themselves the gift of forgiveness.