Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
― Nelson Mandela
A single act of forgiveness is actually two acts of kindness — one toward yourself and one toward the other person.
It is an incredibly powerful action, held highly in the eyes of every major religion. However, it takes practice and mindfulness to utilize the full potential of forgiveness. And it’s not always easy.
So, how can you forgive someone who has hurt you deeply?
It’s not as simple as just saying those magic words “I forgive you.” No, there is a deep process to actually meaning “I forgive you,” and consequently feeling the physical, emotional, and mental health benefits of forgiving someone.
So without further ado, here is our 5 step path to true, wholesome, meaningful, and lasting forgiveness.
5 Steps To Saying “I Forgive You” And Meaning It
This can either be an internal or external process.
It can be external if you can talk with the person you want to forgive and you can go through these steps with them. Alternatively, it can be internal if go through these steps within yourself and achieve the same result: an honest and genuine sense of deep forgiveness.
The first step in forgiveness is confronting your emotions, identifying who you want to forgive, and what you want to forgive them for.
What negative emotions are you experiencing? What actions aroused those emotions? Whose actions ignited those emotions?
Whether it’s a stranger who robbed you, a friend who betrayed your trust, or even yourself, you must acknowledge your negative emotions and confront them.
If you could use some extra help releasing anger, read our article, Need Help Letting Go? These Methods Will Set You Free.
You’ve identified who you want to forgive, and what you want to forgive them for.
Now think about why they could have done what they did. What factors could have caused them to act harmfully toward you?
Perhaps the stranger who robbed you is desperately poor and trying to pay for his kid’s chemotherapy. Or, perhaps the friend who betrayed you is deeply insecure — they have a tendency to harm anybody who gets close because they don’t feel like they deserve friendship or love.
You’ve created some factors that could explain the actions you want to forgive. Now, let go of the boundaries of your identity and fully put yourself in their situation.
Can you empathize with that person? Is it possible you see how, if you were that person, you may have acted similarly?
Even if it was an action so terrible you would never commit it, can you empathize with how a person under the right circumstances might be able to?
You are able to understand and empathize with the person you want to forgive and their actions.
Before you are ready to forgive though, it is necessary to create a positive and memorable meaning to your painful experience to avoid carrying any leftover resentment.
What can you learn? What could life have been trying to teach you with this experience?
Remember, you get to choose the lessons you learn. So, choose the lesson you want to learn!
Perhaps you can transform your experience of being robbed into a lesson on charity. Or, perhaps you can transform your experience of being betrayed into a lesson on compassion.
And perhaps you can transform your experience in self-forgiveness into a lesson on unconditional self-love and acceptance.
You’ve identified who you want to forgive and for what you want to forgive them for.
You understand their reasoning behind their actions. You can empathize with their actions — that anybody under the right circumstances (whether desperate, afraid, or unstable) could act that way.
You’ve transformed your pain and experience into a meaningful and constructive lesson.
Now, you are ready to move forward with your life; leaving behind pain, resentment, and any negative emotions you have experienced. You feel as if you could give the person you want to forgive a genuine, sincere hug.
Lastly, you are ready to look them in the eye and compassionately say “I forgive you!”
To learn more about the power of forgiveness, how to forgive others (and yourself), and much, much more, read our guide on all things forgiveness.
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How has practicing forgiveness impacted your personal development? Share with us in the comments below!