Forgiving someone for hurting you is probably the last thing on your mind when your heart and brain are exploding with a mix of strong emotions. When our feelings have been hurt, either on purpose or by accident, it’s perfectly normal to feel angry or resentful. It’s even normal to feel like you want to hurt the person right back!
We have all been in situations when someone else’s words, actions, and/ or behaviors have had a negative impact on us. Recognizing our feelings of hurt and anger and then allowing ourselves to feel those strong emotions are the first steps toward healing. But it is equally important to understand the power of forgiveness and how forgiving someone can actually make us feel better.
Take a moment to consider the pros and cons of staying angry and resentful versus letting go and forgiving.
Think of your situation this way. When we choose to stay angry at someone it’s as if we are planting a seed of anger. Your thoughts and feelings become just the right combination of sun and water to make the seed grow. The more time you spend feeling angry and bitter, the faster your “Anger Plant” will grow into a giant tree of bad feelings.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you are excusing the bad behavior; it just means you have put your own needs first, and have made a choice to let go of the burden of hard feelings. You may even experience a sense of freedom, as if a large weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.
- Be the bigger person: take the first step needed to clear the air.
- Lead by example: instead of shutting the person out, demonstrate the “golden rule.”
- Be open to an apology, especially when it feels sincere. You may find out that the person who hurt never intended to do so.
Holding on to resentful feelings for a long period of time may lead to other problems, such as physical or emotional changes in your body.
Determine how you feel.
Do an emotional “check-in” with yourself to decide if this situation is having a negative affect on your emotional well-being. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have I been feeling stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, distracted, irritable, sad, or angry?
- Do I have a hard time falling asleep?
- Does my stomach feel upset?
- Am I saying no to fun invitations?
- Am I excluding myself from people who care about me?
- Am I having a difficult time focusing on my responsibilities?
Look at the positives and negatives of each option, and then make a choice whether to forgive or stay angry. To help you decide, ask yourself these questions: will this issue still be a big deal a week from now? One month from now? One year from now? You’ll be surprised how something that feels rotten in the moment, eases over time.
And, unless you are a perfect person, you have hurt someone’s feelings at one time or another. Wouldn’t you like the gift of being forgiven? I thought so.
If You Can’t Forgive and Forget, pick one.-Robert Brault