Question: How do I forgive someone who has wronged me?
my honest answer: Wow. Forgiveness. This is a big topic. There are whole religions based on it. And if you’re looking for that kind of answer, you might be in the wrong place.
I heard a radio piece on forgiveness a few months ago. I’m afraid I can’t remember who it was by (although he was a minister of some description within the Church of England, if I recall).
And he pointed out something very obvious, which I had never thought of before.
Nothing is ‘unforgiveable’.
(I don’t mean that in a relative way, hear me out).
If you forgive someone for something, then that thing was clearly ‘forgivable’. And therefore, you haven’t really forgiven them, because they thing that they did did not require forgiveness.
So anything that you ‘forgive’ someone for, has to have been, in essence, unforgiveable. They wouldn’t need your forgiveness unless they had done something that, ordinarily, you wouldn’t just forgive anyway.
Gosh, does that make any sense? The other guy was much clearer and more eloquent.
Anyway, the scene I’m trying to set is that forgiveness should be hard, or else it isn’t really forgiveness, it’s just getting on with life.
But, even if we agree it’s hard, how can we find it in ourselves to forgive someone?
I guess one of the easiest methods to try to forgive someone is to empathise. Put yourself in their shoes.
Could you, perhaps, in similar circumstances (or even wildly different ones) ever have committed the same transgression? Can you imagine a scenario in which you might have done the same thing?
Or do you remember a time when you have done something that you much regretted, and you recall how painfully awful that was?
Try to put yourself in their shoes.
This technique works best when you believe that they are genuinely sorry, and understand what they did to cause the rift.
You can also try to remind yourself that even though they did you wrong, they’ve probably been wronged themselves too. Is there anything in their life that can help you understand why they did what they did?
Or even if there isn’t, recognise that you don’t know their story. Even if you think you do, there is some part of each of us that is hidden (even from ourselves).
When answering a question about how to get forgiveness, I asked the questioner whether they had done everything they could to put things right. That seems like an important step in asking for forgiveness to me.
So, has this person tried to put things right? Have they apologised? Have they replaced anything that can be replaced (and I know most things, including feelings, can’t)?
If they haven’t made an effort to put things right, and you are struggling with forgiving them, it might be worth telling them what they can do to make you feel better. This is, of course, assuming that they want your forgiveness. If you have gone your seperate ways, and you are just trying to find it within yourself to forgive, this isn’t relevant. Don’t go opening old wounds by seeking them out.
But if it is someone who is still in your life, and they want your forgiveness, and you want to give it to them, but you’re finding it hard, explaining why you are so upset, and asking for a proper apology might be helpful.
Put it in Context
Another technique for forgiving people is to ask yourself how big a deal it really is.
Will you still remember this incident in five years? In ten years? In thirty years?
Don’t hold on to anger just have something ‘over’ someone. Forgiving them will free you too – because you won’t have to hold onto the bitterness.
Think of life in its grand scheme. Compared to the tragedies that may befall us, how important is this incident, really? (I understand it may have caused one of life’s tragedies, so this might not help).
If you’re not going to see this event as a major turning point in your life, when you look back on it from the armchair of your nursing home, why fuss over it now? It’s easier for everyone just to put it down to experience, and move on.
I hope that some of these suggestions might help. I really feel I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this question though, and it’s been in my drafts folder for longer than I care to mention. So, having admitted I have nothing more to say on the subject (wow, right?!), but feeling there is much more to be said, I’d like to open it up to the floor. Please chime in with any suggestions, ideas, or thoughts you might have on how to forgive.
As always, you can comment totally anonymously, neither a name nor e-mail address is required to comment here.