Forgiveness can be a difficult topic in relationships- whether it is a friendship that has been marred by a lie, long-term relationship torn apart by infidelity or a marriage that may be cut short by one partner not wanting to be in the marriage any longer. Feelings are hurt, our vision of the other person is shattered, not to mention our trust in others.
What Happened to Our Lovely Life?
Most likely, when you have to try to forgive someone, a terrible event has happened. Not only do you have to process the event, how you feel about it and figure out what to do next, you also have to decide whether or not to forgive the person who hurt you. This can be very difficult. Some circumstances, like violent crimes, are almost unforgivable. It can be almost impossible to do so, and many would understand this.
The first step- think calmly. This may take some time and it’s okay. Hours or days may go by before you can begin to think about the events that have occurred and what your next move is. Can you forgive the person that hurt you? This doesn’t mean to forget that it ever happened, that you can just go back to before the event occurred. For example, if your significant other hit you during an argument, that’s not something that should be simply forgiven. (Personally, I’d be filing for a divorce the next day because my husband knows I have no tolerance for physical violence in a relationship.) Nobody deserves that sort of treatment, but some are able to work through that kind of situation and move forward.
Another thought- Can you trust this person, or others, again? This question may take some time to answer. Don’t rush this one. Trust is a fragile thing to many, and once it’s shattered, it may never be the same. If you’ve discovered a friend has been lying to you, it’s hard to trust your other friends. What if they are lying to you? It’s normal to question others.
People do have limits to what they can and cannot forgive from others. Those limits vary among people. When you reach that limit, it may be time to leave that relationship behind. This may not be an easy move, but it will be good for your emotional health. When people realize that you will forgive them for anything, they tend to walk all over you- doing more and more to see what you are willing to deal with. This can become dangerous, emotionally, physically, and even financially.
Moving Forward And Healing
If you become stuck and can’t move forward from what’s happened, you may become depressed, anxious, or a combination of both. You may even become angry. This is a result of continuing rumination of the same thoughts. It can affect your health- headaches, stomachaches, insomnia, etc. This isn’t a pleasant experience.
How can you begin to forgive?
- If you need to, talk it out. You can talk to someone you trust, as in clergy, a trusted family member, friend, or even a therapist. There is a lot of value in talking through your feelings in this situation. It will help you process the events, the immediate time after, and how you are dealing now. You may realize things about the situation that you hadn’t before, which can be helpful.
- Consider if the actions were done intentionally. If they weren’t, this is something to weigh carefully. If so, that may give you clues about the person as a whole. Do you want to spend time with someone who would intentionally hurt you? Would you want to give them another chance to hurt you, potentially worse?
- Write a letter to the person who hurt you- express your feelings as if they were sitting right there in front of you. This can help you get everything out. After you’re done, destroy it so that you can literally let go of the thoughts. This process can be very therapeutic.
- If you can talk to the person, try doing so calmly. There may be serious emotions involved, but they may need to know how badly they hurt you and/or the relationship.
- Keep a journal. This can help you process your thoughts as they come and go.
- Don’t ignore your feelings. They may come out in unproductive ways- self-harm, alcohol and/or drug abuse, etc.
Don’t push yourself to forgive someone who has done something to you that is generally unforgivable- any kind of abusive situation or a criminal act. If you are able to do so, that is a wonderful thing, but do not berate yourself for not being able to. I do recommend seeking therapy if this has been your experience. Pushing yourself to forgive in this kind of situation can be a very bad idea.
Is there a time limit on deciding to forgive? It’s hard to say, it may depend on the situation. In cases of cheating, it may take months or years. A wife that has been cheated on may never fully forgive her husband, no matter how hard he tries, even if they go to couples counseling. This also may be due to new insecurities or other issues that came up after the cheating. It also depends on the person. Some people hold on to grudges and don’t decide to forgive, no matter how the other party apologizes. I lost a friend after the death of his brother. I upset his (now ex) girlfriend and he hasn’t spoken more than two sentences to me since- this was three years ago. His aunt died earlier this year. His cousin, who is now one of my best friends, had to almost beg him to speak to me at the funeral. Before the death of his brother, we had been very close friends. I understand that I hurt his girlfriend, but that was between us, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt him- ever. However, his personality just doesn’t allow for forgiving people easily. It took a long time for me to accept this.
Once you decide to forgive those that hurt you, you feel better- physically and emotionally. There is a weight lifted off your shoulders. Your mind feels lighter, and you may feel happier. Those thoughts are almost, if not entirely, gone. Life feels easier. Even if this isn’t a possibility, hopefully, as time goes by and you are able to process things, this can happen to you. Forgiveness can be a blessing if you are able to let it into your life.