If you’ve been following my trek into forgiveness in this series, or you’ve ever had someone let you down or hurt you, then you’ll know that the pain can be overwhelming and our patterns of behaviour so stuck that change feels unimaginable. Realising that forgiving doesn’t depend on the other person but starts with me was my first helpful discovery. Here are a few more steps that have helped:
1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened, and be able to articulate what about the situation is not okay. Tell one or two trusted people about your experience.
Writing in a journal helps me and my friend has a worksheet she uses.
2. Understand your goal: what you are after is peace.
Enduring issues with my dad jumped to the fore when he came to live with us. I had stopped sleeping and was constantly stressed and my emotional state was affecting my family. I realised that I needed to be calm so that I could start making positive changes.
3. Get the right perspective on what is happening internally. You are allowing the past to dominate your present. You have the choice to make decisions in your best interests now. Only you can do that.
I reminded myself that this one relationship doesn’t define me. In my life I’m also surrounded by people who do love and support me.
4. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else. No one else even has to know about your decision.
I needed to forgive, but I also needed a space boundary. I couldn’t manage Dad living with us permanently.
5. If traumatic or hurtful memories flood your mind and make you feel upset, use deep breathing or meditation to soothe your body’s flight or fight response. Take time out in a quiet place and for a few minutes think about a good thing that has happened to you until you calm down.
No good thoughts come at 4 a.m., so I’ve found mindfulness apps for my phone and I listen to these when my mind is going crazy.
- Give up expecting things from other people, or life, that they do not choose to give you. You can hope for health, love, friendship and prosperity, but you will suffer if you demand these things from life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, appreciate what you do.
This is hard, but practicing gratitude has been shown to increase happiness – it really works!
7. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, giving the person who hurt you power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.
I feel better when I’m contributing love to the world around me – sometimes feelings follow behaviour.
8. Amend your grievance story to remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive and move on. You are not a victim – you are a courageous person who has had difficulties like most people, but you have faced up to them and chosen instead to concentrate on your dream of a happy, productive life.
This was the best medicine for me – I pray it will be for you too.
In our culture at the moment, doing hard things is not normal. Making time to change is unusual. Forgiving is just weird. Let me encourage you though, that it does produce a path to peace and a different way is possible. Be kind to yourself, persevere, and watch the benefits start to unfold. This has been easy to say, hard to do, but beautiful to behold.
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” – Jesus
*Article images by Kathryn Siveyer
*Featured image by Lee Harris from the April Energy Forecast – Death to the Dark, Forgiveness for Freedom