I get a lot of questions from people about forgiveness. People resist forgiveness for a variety of reasons. Some people believe that if you forgive someone for the harm they did, you will be asking for more harm down the line—in other words, forgiveness leaves you more vulnerable, not less. Other people believe that if you forgive someone, you will be giving them a free pass or condoning what they did—these people hold out, seeking punishment and vengeance. And some people simply don’t know how to forgive—it sounds simple in theory but difficult to execute with intention. So I thought I’d write this week’s blog in honor of forgiveness.
When you are in a relationship with another person, you will inevitably get hurt. People do things intentionally and unintentionally that cause us pain. When you are hurt by the people you love, it is normal to feel caught between wanting to forgive and reconnect with wanting to protect yourself. Forgiveness is hard to do when you feel so let down. It is normal to move quickly into protect and defend mode. When we are hurt, we automatically withdraw, attack, or freeze. Most of us vacillate between these various modes as we struggle with understanding the perceived attack and strategizing on how to punish the attacker or at the very least, hold the attacker accountable for his or her actions. Most emotional injury results in us disconnecting from the very person we love and long to connect with. It is quite an internal battle.
The way to get through the internal battle and back to peace of mind is with forgiveness.
Forgiveness is one of the most important skills in creating loving relationships. People aren’t perfect. When you feel hurt by someone, it may have as much, if not more to do with your interpretations of their actions, rather than their actions alone. In other words, while the person who hurt you is responsible for their actions, you are always responsible for your interpretations, feelings and reactions no matter what they have done to you. Again, this doesn’t mean that people aren’t responsible for their actions; it simply means that once an injury has taken place, it is your job to heal the hurt.
One of the most powerful ways to heal is through forgiveness.
But let’s be clear on what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness does not mean you condone their behaviors. Forgiveness does not mean you’ll tolerate any behaviors that you find unacceptable. Forgiveness does mean that you understand that the person who hurt you either had good intentions but poor execution of those intentions or they are hurting themselves, in some form or fashion. Forgiveness is an act of compassion and empathy. Forgiveness does mean you don’t take it personally. It requires you to focus on your own feelings and well-being, not the act of revenge or vindication.
Forgiveness is really an act of self-love.
Because when you forgive, you take back all the energy and power that you have been giving away to the person who hurt you. Only then can you fully engage in your life in a powerful way. When you forgive, you create more loving and healing energy for yourself.
So what do you need to do in order to forgive? Here are my six steps to forgiveness.
- Take a look and see how you interpreted the person’s actions or words. Test understanding. Maybe you perceived their actions accurately, maybe not.
- Try to understand what was driving the other’s actions. Is he suffering from fear and pain himself? Is she struggling with a loss of some kind? Were his intentions good? Did she mean no harm?
- Set clear limits and boundaries on unacceptable behaviors. Let him know what he did and how it impacted you—physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Let her know what works for you and what does not and what behaviors are deal-breakers if this is applicable.
- Remind yourself that everyone involved is usually doing the best they can, even if their best has resulted in disappointment and hurt. Be compassionate with yourself. Have empathy for your significant other.
- Reach out. Drop your armor. Reconnect. Be the love you want to feel in your heart.
- Lastly, if this incident is a deal-breaker and you need to exit the relationship, then send this person off with love. Wish them well. Remember they are dealing with their own suffering and pain and know you’ll be better off going your separate ways. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Release this person with power and reclaim your own.
If you are struggling with forgiving another and setting yourself free, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me. I’m here to help. I want you to have the best possible outcome when it comes to strengthening your relationships.
Please share your story with our community. This is how we learn and grow from one another.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com