This is the column where I answer a website visitor’s question in hopes of supporting all visitors through shared (and likely, relevant) challenges, triumphs, and struggles. To submit your question, see the guidelines at the bottom of this page.
How do I forgive someone so the past events related to them stop coming back to haunt me?
Dear Still Hurting,
Ah yes, the trickiness of forgiveness. When someone has done something to hurt us, it can be incredibly difficult to let it go. But, as Malachy McCourt said, “Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Of course, I’m sure you felt and may still feel angry, disappointed, or hurt, but holding onto these emotions is essentially allowing the other person to own you. It’s like re-injuring yourself over and over again, and it robs you of possibilities and opportunities. If many (or even some) of your thoughts and feelings are holding on to these past events, you’re taking up valuable energetic real estate, and as a result, blocking out new sources of success and happiness from your life.
OK, so you know hanging on to this is not serving you, but how do you start to let go of it? While this may be difficult to consider, humor me and give it a go. Think back to the incident or incidents. How might the offender have been operating out of pain? Remember, everyone has a story. No one starts their day saying, “I can’t wait to piss someone off today,” or “I’m really looking forward to betraying my wife.”
I’ve found that practicing compassionate listening (considering a person’s story) is so helpful in taking things less personally, even if the act seems like it was aimed at you square between the eyes. Doing this is with the intention of helping yourself to let go of the anger and hurt, and not at all to indicate that what the person did was ok.
Also, don’t forget that everyone comes into our lives for a reason. This painful experience was a necessary part of your journey, as crappy as it feels. Take some time to think about what lessons you learned from the experience and what gifts you’ll take from it moving forward.
The best way you can “get back” at the person who hurt you is by living a full, integrity-filled life.
Sending you all my best,
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