I created this list of tips to help you forgive because I needed to etch it in my heart as well. I have this conversation often with my friends and family about forgiveness. Often the question is, "But HOW do I forgive when...?" That's a great question! How do we forgive? What is forgiveness anyway and how do we know that we have truly forgiven a person? These tips to help you forgive have helped me greatly along the way.
1. You're Not Perfect
You're not perfect and neither am I, no matter how hard we try to be. We are all human and we all make mistakes. I remember reading a book about a woman who had a near death experience, and one of the things she wrote about was how she realized how often she had offended people on earth and had absolutely no idea that she had done it. At some point you will need to ask someone for forgiveness, so humble yourselves and learn to forgive others when they need it… whether they ask for it or not.
2. You've Been Forgiven
This goes back to my first point in that at some point in your life you will need forgiveness. I'm sure you can think of at least one occasion in your life, let's think back to high school if your memory is a bit foggy. I do believe to a degree that what goes around comes around, so if you can get in the flow of forgiving others you will find that (hopefully) you will be forgiven when needed as well.
3. Don't Take It Personally
This can be so hard to do, but it's necessary and so helpful to get through this thing called life. I can't tell you how many times I have thought that someone was mad at me or ignoring me, when really they were just incredibly busy or dealing with their own drama or pain to even remember me. We all do it at some point. I have learned (and am still learning) to not take things so personally, because often another person's behavior has nothing to do with you. I guess I should say that my default is no longer to take things personally. There will still be times where we are the source of another person's negative reactions or words, but it shouldn't be our default assumption.
4. Their Shoes
We've all heard this a bazillion times: to try to put ourselves in other's shoes. There's no way to truly do that. But I do find that if I try to be as thoughtful as possible and don't take things personally, it's easier to consider the position another person is coming from and why they may behave the way that they do. I read the other day that "hurt people hurt people." It's so true. If you have a thorny person in your life they are probably dealing with a lot of pain that needs to be healed. It's not up to you to heal them obviously, but you can at least consider that when dealing with them.
5. Life is Short
This quote from Mother Teresa sums this up better than I am able to articulate it.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, they may accuse you of having selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful you will win some false friends and true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You ... see, in the end, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway."
6. Say the Words
Sometimes it can be that simple. If you need to forgive someone just say "I forgive you ********__." If you aren't ready to say it to their face yet, just say it to yourself everyday several times. I have found that just confessing that I forgive a person changes my frame of mind and I no longer harbor ill feelings towards them but I am able to let go of the offense. Eventually it is nice to say it to the person, especially if they are someone you have to be around or desire to keep in your life. But forgiveness isn't really about setting the other person free as much as it is about setting yourself free from negative feelings.
7. Confront Them
I used to run from confrontation like I ran from eating liver. Actually, I still won't touch liver, but I have learned that confrontation is not always a bad thing. In fact, it can be healthy to confront a person if it needs to be done. Sure, it can be scary. But if the relationship is worth keeping to you it's important to get any offense off of your chest instead of allowing it to remain inside of you. If you hold on to it, it will only grow and make you feel worse in time.
8. Remember Why You Love Them
Unless we are talking about an enemy, most of the people in our lives have lovable qualities about them. If you are upset, surely you must care. Why do you care? Think about if the relationship is worth fighting for. If the answer is yes, take some time to reflect about the good memories that you have with that person. Why are they important to you? This has helped me to remember that there is a lot of good that comes with the occasional not-so-good.
9. Hug or Kiss It out
Some people just need to be hugged and told that they are loved every once in a while. If you are close, just stop and give them a hug or kiss and tell them that you care. You may find that this is the breaking point you needed to open honest dialogue and the road to healing in the relationship. If they aren't very touchy, then try to respect that and just embrace them by touching their hand or arm instead.
10. Let Go
Let it go ladies. Stop making a laundry list of offenses under each person that is in your life. The forgetting part in "forgive and forget" isn't easy, and often impossible. How can you forget an event in your life that impacted you? Although you may not be able to erase the memory you can choose to let it go and there is a difference. If you need some time and space in order to let things go, that's fine. Maybe during that time you will find that the relationship isn't worth keeping and that is fine too. For some reason we think that we have to hold on to every relationship we ever have and that's just not true. It's possible to forgive a person and end the relationship because you realize that you have grown apart. It's also possible to realize that you can forgive a person and keep going no matter what.
Forgiveness is an issue that we all have to deal with in life. We are humans and we are imperfect. But hopefully, we can learn this life lesson of forgiveness and choose to love. Have you had a hard time with forgiveness? I'd love to hear your tips or struggles!