When someone hurts you through their words or actions, the common advice given is to forgive and forget, but it is easier said than done.
When you find yourself struggling to forgive, you may find it helpful to reframe the situation so as to focus on that which can actually be forgiven in the first place.
What do we mean by this? Well, have you ever heard someone utter the phrase “I’ll never forgive them for what they’ve done” or have these words ever passed your own lips? If so, consider exactly what is being said here – forgiveness cannot be handed out for what they have done.
This is precisely the trap that many people fall into when trying to forgive. You see, forgiveness can only be offered to a person – not to the act that was perpetrated.
If you have been hurt by another in any way, there is no solace to be had in trying to forgive the events. In fact, maintaining your focus on the events only serves to reinforce the emotions that are attached to them and prolong your suffering.
Instead, you have to accept that the events have occurred, are in the past, and cannot be undone. You are then left with the person who caused the hurt and it is they who you may find it possible to forgive.
The Person Is Complicated, The Act Is Simple
The primary reason why it is possible to forgive a person, but impossible to forgive an act, is that a person is unthinkably complicated.
From the day we are born until the day we die, we are shaped by the world around us; we each have our personal history and a unique perspective on life. While this should never be an excuse for the choices that people make, it can help you to understand why they make them. Just as people who suffer abuse as children are more likely to become abusers in their adult lives, the events and emotions experienced by someone in their past can greatly influence what they do in the present.
The act, on the other hand, is seen in isolation and is, thus, a simple thing which can be more readily defined as wrong.
If a person steals from you, for example, then the theft itself is morally wrong and would be hard to forgive as a separate act. The person, on the other hand, may be battling unknown demons or be struggling in some other way that drove them to steal. If you can step into their shoes and come to understand their suffering, your heart may develop the conditions for forgiveness to grow.
When The Offender Is Someone Close
Many wrongdoings are carried out by people who are close to you; friends, family members, or partners, for instance. In these circumstances, it can be even more difficult to forgive because they chose to hurt or wrong you in some way despite your relationship. But the principle of forgiving the person rather than the act still applies.
One avenue you may go down to find forgiveness is to focus on the wealth that you have gained through your relationship. If there are times when you have felt happiness and joy in the company of this person, use those memories to chase away the hurt that they have caused you. Knowing that they are not an innately bad person can bring a great deal of comfort; you can understand that they suffered a moment or period of weakness and, from this, bad decisions were made.
Forgiveness Is For You
In many ways, the act of forgiving another is more about you than it is about them. When wrong has been done to you, forgiveness is the process of detaching yourself from the events that took place – cutting the strings from them if you like.
Forgiveness cannot make the other person feel better about what they did; they must be the one to find their own salvation.
Forgiveness Does Not Always Come
Try as you might, there are some transgressions that you may not be able to forgive. Some acts are so great and cause such unspeakable pain, that no matter how you frame them or however much you try to understand them, the hurt is too much.
If you should ever find yourself in this position, don’t beat yourself up over it; being unable to forgive a heinous act does not, in any way, make you a bad person.
You Can Forgive And Still Say Farewell
Providing your forgiveness to another does not mean that you should keep them as a fixture in your life. While you will sometimes want to and be able to get back to the way things were, there are other instances where letting your relationship fade away is the wise choice.
Forgiving someone does not always bring back the closeness that you may have had, particularly if the reason they wronged you is still present in their lives. As was mentioned in our article on the habits of happy people, choosing the right company with which to spend your time is important and it might just be that, despite forgiving someone, they are not the right fit for you any longer.
The Conscious Rethink: the next time you are trying to forgive someone, resist the temptation to focus on their wrongdoings and instead focus on them as a person. Only then will you be able to find it within yourself to move on – either with or without them in your life.