While there is certainly no weakness in forgiveness; it’s a damn hard skill to master. Resentment and anger can bubble away for years, and if not dealt with, will keep you living in the shadows of your past.
And let’s be clear here, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you need to let someone who seriously hurt you off the hook; it just means that you need to release the negative energy that you’re feeling towards them, and remove them from your life.
Dr Fred Luskin, head of the Stanford Forgiveness Project says that the impact forgiveness can have on a person’s psychological and physical health is astounding. He claims, “forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt, depression and stress and lead to greater feelings of optimism, hope, compassion and self confidence.”
Here’s how to release toxic feelings towards someone who did you wrong, and step forward into the freedom of forgiveness:
Forgiveness is a process that takes time; and there is no timeframe that dictates how long you should take in order to reach the point of forgiveness. Taking time away from the person who hurt you allows you to come to terms with your own thoughts on what has happened, process it in your mind and figure out where to go from there. Healing doesn’t occur overnight.
It’s okay to want to cut someone out if they hurt you, and forgiveness simply allows you to do this without having to cart the weight of resentment around on your shoulders for the rest of your life. As Lauren Conrad so iconically told Heidi in that fateful episode of The Hills circa 2007, “I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you.” You go, girlfriend.
Easier said than done though, amiright? In Aramaic, the word for forgiveness (“shbag”) literally means to “untie.” It means that there are no strings left attached, no “I’ll forgive you IF you do x, y or z.” It’s simply a promise to yourself to unpack the pain that you’re feeling, and let it drift away so that it no longer holds the power to bear negativity on your life.
We all hold so much unexplored pain within us whether it’s from a previous toxic relationship, our formative years or feelings of low self esteem. Acknowledging that these past experiences have shaped us is fundamental to moving past them, and forgiving yourself first is essential to forgiving other people.
Forgiveness guru Gabby Bernstein advises meditating for forgiveness, and says “if I’m in a heated place, no matter how angry or wounded I may feel, when I use this practice I can always come back to a place of oneness and forgiveness.”
To do it, you have to meditate with the person who hurt you at the forefront of your mind. Bernstein says to think about all of the things that you love about them, or the valuable lessons you’ve learned from difficult times with them if the former is too painful. Then, she says to “call on the good that has come from this relationship. Start to cultivate the feeling of goodness, love, acceptance and appreciation.” She recommends this practice for a period of thirty days whilst trying to forgive.
If you’re in the process of attempting to forgive; remember that it is exactly that – a process. And an often lengthy process at that, but anything worth having is worth waiting for. You got this.