“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Up until my early 20s, I carried around a lot of anger toward someone in my life. I’d been hurt by a person I trusted, and for a long time in my adolescence I wanted to hurt them back.
I lived in painful stories and in visions of what could have been if I hadn’t been wronged. I blamed someone else for the life I didn’t have, and felt vindicated in the soul-sucking resentment I carried around from day to day.
I realize it makes less compelling writing to talk so generally, but these stories aren’t only mine to tell. They involve someone I love and have since forgiven. So perhaps the kindest thing I can do both for them and me is not retell the story, but instead create a new one: a story about letting go.
It’s a hard thing to do—to completely let go of something painful and forgive the person who may or may not have realized what they did. At my angriest point, I was convinced the person who hurt me did it with full intention and cruelty. I felt not a shred of compassion; just unadulterated pain and rage.
Then I realized: unless someone is a sociopath, they are rarely without feeling. And if they’ve hurt another person, even if their ego prevents them from admitting it, odds are they feel remorse on some level.
No one is purely bad, and everyone carries their own pain which influences the decisions they make. This doesn’t condone their thoughtless, insensitive, or selfish decisions, but it makes them easier to understand.
After all, we’ve all been thoughtless, insensitive, and selfish at times. Usually, we have good intentions.
And for the most part, we all do the best we can from day to day—even when we hurt someone; even when we’re too stubborn, ashamed, or in denial to admit the hurt we’ve caused.
So how do you forgive someone when every fiber of your being resists? How do you look at them lovingly when you still have the memory of their unloving action? How do let go of the way you wish things had worked out if only they made a different choice?
I decided to consult the Tiny Buddha Facebook community to learn how they’ve moved on from anger and resentment.
Readers offered nearly 150 ideas to help forgive someone when it’s hard. The ones that resonated with my most strongly were:
- I remember them as a child and it’s much easier! -Joy Thompson
- I remind myself that I forgive not for them but for me and that it’s easier to forgive than to hang on to so much anger, hurt and betrayal. -Sarah Clark
- I just acknowledge that we are humans, so we are allowed to make mistakes. -Haydee Lizbeth Lopez Cruz
- Remind yourself that they are not separate from you; they only appear that way. Then you will realize you are one, and it is yourself you are forgiving. -Justin Hayden
- Do not keep thinking of the past or the bad thing that happened; when you let go of it, you get over the anger/bitterness that you felt and it clears the path of forgiveness! The best thing is time! -Ashna Singh
- Remember that we are all doing the best we can at the time. -Diane Paul
- Remind yourself of how much forgiveness would mean to you if it was your turn for a mistake! – Carol Mcbride-Safford
- Wayne Dwyer describes how hate is love which has been turned around. Seeing the expression of what can’t be forgiven as love makes it easier to forgive. Were also all doing the best we can, according to our own evolutionary state, including those we find hard to forgive. – Lise Heeley
- Because it takes less energy to love and forgive than it does to stay angry and hold a grudge. It brings peace to your life. -Linda Adams
- I know that I need to forgive someone, not for their benefit, but for my own peace of mind. Don’t do it for them, do it for you! -Cathryn Kent
- You remember why you love them. Love is about forgiveness.- Holly Chapman
- Forgiveness comes easier with the passing of time. I tend to find that, if I am wronged, I forgive the person before they forgive themselves, and when I am in need of forgiveness, it is I who feels the guilt for longer. -Mandy Richardson
- Stop thinking and just do it. Open your heart and forgive. -Lindsey Windrow
- Don’t force it. If I don’t feel forgiving, I can at least not act on my anger. Eventually forgiveness will come if you welcome it. -Julie Trottier
- Just learn to smile and let things go. -Sudharma Lama
- Give up on all hope of a better past. -Matt Child
- Every time you think of them send them love. After a while it gets easy. -Crystal Chang
- Meditate, meditate and meditate some more until it’s gone! -Margot Knight-Guijt
- The harder it is to forgive someone else, the more I am responsible. When I understand and forgive myself, forgiving others is easy. -Pamela Picard
- Two different approaches. One involves restoring your boundaries and sense of protection first. The other involves focusing on what your body is feeling and stop dwelling on the offense. Both involve being present. -Chris Campa
- Forgiveness comes easy when you know that what people say or do is about them, it’s not about you. -Kim Kings
- Shift the focus, feel the pain and think of the thousands of others in the world who are also feeling the same pain, then send a loving-kindness message to everyone to be relieved of this suffering. -Nick Ong
- When it happens I often ask myself “What strengths must I develop further from this?” Often the feeling of resentment just goes away, slowly but surely, because I wasn’t focusing on the person that wronged me, but the lesson that the event was trying to tell me. -Natassia Callista Alicia
- I allow myself to feel again whatever I didn’t express “in the moment” when I was with them. Forgiveness always seem to follow those (usually) difficult emotions. -Cynthia Ruprecht Hunt
- Write a brutally honest, emotionally raw letter telling them how much they have hurt and angered you, then tear it up and burn it. As you watch the smoke rise, think about the fact that you are not that hurt and that anger. It is fleeting, just like everything else. As the smoke carrying your hurt and disappointment disappears into the air, you can let it go. -Renate Wuersig
- For some wrongs, I just have to remember that they are responsible for their actions and then it is easier for me to just let it be. -Karen Garland
- By remembering that it will free me from the burden of the stress I feel, also, if I can’t forgive then how can I expect to ever be forgiven? -Leslie Brown
- Just look to the future instead of focusing on what’s past…think of creating new good memories to wipe away old bad ones. -Elizabeth Lindsay
- It becomes easy when you remember a time when you were forgiven, centering on how it made you feel. -Louisya Graves
- Understand this: whether you like it or not, over time, you will stop feeling the pain, so why hold on to something that’s going to away anyway? -Nirav KAKU
How did I forgive when it was hard? I came to this realization: no one ever gets to the end of their life and thinks, “I wish I stayed angry longer.” They generally say one of three things: “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” or “I love you.”
After taking space to heal myself, I decided to cut out the middle man of time. I now set boundaries to take better care of me, but I’ll never regret that I’ve forgiven.”
– Courtesy of Lori Deschene, http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-forgive-someone-when-its-hard-30-tips-to-let-go-of-anger/
James and I had our biggest disagreement yet two days ago, and it sent to me a place where I had thought I had long since moved from. Every now and again, historically, he has made comments to me, or said things in such a way in which made me feel stupid. It is really hard to explain, it was almost as though he was fed up, or exasperated with me. He wasn’t directly nasty or rude to me, but it made me feel sad. For a while I put up with it, but two days ago, after he had said something to me, I asked him whether he thought I was stupid, because he was talking to me as though I was. He got shirty with me,and sarcastically told me it must be another of his ‘foibles’.
To cut a long story short, I told him I wanted to be honest with him about how his speaking to me in that way made me feel. He told me that I was imagining it, I was making problems out of nothing, and that I had been moody for the past few days and taking it out on him. So, I take a step back. I have no courage in my convictions and always doubt myself – hence why I hardly ever go out on a limb – so wondered whether he was right, whether it was all in my head. But I know at the time the comments were made, they upset me deeply. So how can they be in my head? Maybe I come across moody but I think I am actually depressed. I am starting to struggle off the medication and can feel myself feeling familiar thoughts and feelings. For the most part, I feel deeply sad and very emotional – stupid things make me tear up for no apparent reason, and this is hard to hide.
In truth, I wish I didn’t have to hide it. I wish I had been straight with him from the beginning – told him the truth about how weak and insecure I can be, but no man will find that attractive. I wanted him to see me as a confident, sassy girl who he would find attractive and want, not a little lost puppy that needed saving. Now, I seem to have made a rod for my own back – now I cannot take a step back and be honest with him about how much support I actually need for him, and how I need him to treat me if we are to remain in a strong, happy relationship.
During the conversation he wandered off, so I decided to take myself off to bed. He didn’t come up – and I woke up the next morning at 5.30am to find him on the sofa. I asked him to come up to bed, which he did, but immediately turned his back on me. Most of the day was spent like this – receiving the cold shoulder – something which I automatically take as a personal rejection. I don’t know how to, or even if it is fair to ask someone not to treat me like that, because it is my own issues that make it such a big deal for me.
In the evening, on the advice of Jen, I went home and tried to act natural. He was still frosty with me, but I fought both my deep and strong anxiety and the overwhelming urge to crawl up into a ball and cry, and tried to keep confident, happy and a smile on my face. I don’t know whether this is the right thing to do, to make him think I am perfectly fine and not ‘holding a grudge’. I don’t think I am holding a grudge, I just think the last two days have affected me deeply.
I know no relationship is perfect and they all need work, but James would not admit that he had done anything wrong at all. Whether he was subtly manipulating me to think it was my fault, or whether it genuinely WAS my fault and it is just because my brain and personality and flawed and faulty – that is what I need help with. I wanted him to say ‘I didn’t realise that speaking to you in that manner made you feel like that’ but instead he said ‘You are imagining it, I didn’t speak to you in that way at all’ and went on to say that for 2 or 3 days I had been down on him, making digs for no reason.
I wish I could make sense of things and know with conviction what the truth is but I just don’t know. This morning he woke up and was back to his old self. He wanted sex and I obliged because this obviously means things are back to normal for him. He asked me if I was okay and I told him I was, but inside my chest I was aching. I am deeply hurt by him not wanting to/being able to talk about our argument. I feel as though it is left unresolved but daren’t bring it up again in case he becomes cold with me again. I know this is not how a relationship should be but I don’t know how to make it right. I feel as though I want him to know me but he only knows the person I want him to think I am.
How do I move on from this? How do I forgive him (should I even need to?) for something that he doesn’t even believe he has done? If he doesn’t change what do I do if it happens again?
The saddest thing is the strong urges to self harm I have had over the past few days. I have resisted, and will continue to resist, but I have to acknowledge that they are there.
I find myself looking at other people and their relationships. They have arguments are they are not afraid to fight their corner. I am too afraid to fight my corner- because I don’t want the other person to leave me. I should be more secure in myself but I don’t know how to be. I can’t even stay angry at James because I know I should be grateful that he wants me.