If we really want to love, we must first learn how to forgive. - Mother Teresa
We’ve all been hurt by another person at some time or another — we were treated badly, trust was broken, hearts were hurt. But sometimes that pain lingers for too long. We relive the pain over and over, and have a hard time letting go. This causes us to not only be unhappy, but can strain or ruin relationships, distract us from work and family and other important things, make us reluctant to open up to new things and people. We get trapped in a cycle of anger and hurt, and miss out on the beauty of life as it happens.
We need to learn to let go. We need to be able to forgive. Because we deserve to move on and be happy.
Forgiveness does not mean you erase the past, or forget what has happened. It doesn’t even mean the other person will change their behavior — you cannot control that. All it means is that you are letting go of the anger and pain, and moving on to a better place.
Realize you have a choice. You cannot control the actions of others, and shouldn’t try. But you can control not only your actions, but your thoughts. You can stop reliving the hurt and can choose to move on. You have this power. You just need to learn how to exercise it.
Commit to letting go. You aren’t going to do it in a second or maybe not even in a day. It can take time to get over something. So commit to changing, because you recognize that the pain is hurting you.
Think about the pros and cons. What problems does this pain cause you? Does it affect your relationship with this person? With others? Does it affect work or family? Does it stop you from pursuing your dreams, or becoming a better person? Think of all these problems, and identify where you need to change. Then think of the benefits of forgiveness — how it will make you happier, free you from the past and the pain, improve things with your relationships and life in general.
Empathize. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Try to understand why the person did what they did. Start from the assumption that the person isn’t bad, but just did something wrong. What could they have been thinking, what could have happened to them in the past to make them do what they did? How do they feel now? You aren’t saying what they did is right, but are instead trying to understand and empathize.
Understand your responsibility. Try to figure out how you could have been partially responsible for what happened. What could you have done to prevent it, and how can you prevent it from happening next time? This isn’t to say you’re taking all the blame, or taking responsibility away from the other person, but to realize that we are not victims but participants in life.
Focus on the present. Now that you’ve reflected on the past, realize that part is over. It isn’t happening anymore, except in your mind. And that causes unhappiness and stress. Instead, bring your focus back to the present moment. What joy can you find in what is happening right now? Find the happiness in life now, as it happens, and stop reliving the past. If you start thinking about the past, just acknowledge that, and gently bring yourself back to the present moment.
Feel compassion. Finally, forgive the person and realize that in forgiveness, you are allowing yourself to be happy and move on. Feel empathy for the person and wish happiness on them. Let love for them, and life in general, grow in your heart. It may take time, but if you’re stuck on this point, repeat some of the ones above until you can get here.