How To Forgive Someone (Even When They Don't Really Deserve It)

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how to forgive someone
Self

It's so worth it.

In simple terms, forgiveness is the openness and willingness to act out of love, acceptance, and compassion to what seems like an unjust cause.

Think of the law of cause and effect. The cause is the hurtful experience done to you. Yet you choose the effect. For instance, to be loving, accepting, and compassionate to the person despite the hurt, or you choose to be angry, resistant, and resentful. Over time, depending on the choice we make from the hurt, this will be our experience.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful healing tools we have for reconciling and moving on from the wounds and hurts of life.

It is also one of the most profound acts of unconditional love and acceptance a person can offer themselves and others.

However, for many, the act of forgiveness is one of the most difficult and avoided human endeavors.


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Our resistance and struggles with offering or accepting forgiveness creates a lot of pain and inner torment.

Forgiveness, like grief, is a process. It’s not so much something we get over, it’s something we move through, in our own time and at our own pace.

Forgiveness takes on different meanings for different people, depending on our experiences. This meaning is what becomes significant to us and creates resentment or acceptance, sorrow, or joy, depending on what really matters in our lives.

The more we make something matter, the more intense our emotions around it will be. If we make a situation matter too much in the negative and defeating direction, the greater the likelihood we will begin to lose our self. We become too negatively emotionally charged and attached, even obsessed and defined by the situation and those that hurt us.

The act of forgiveness lowers the intensity and emotional charge of the hurt we endured, thus allowing peace to fill the space that once held resentment.

If you have been wronged by another, you may have a heavy heart, burdened with resentment and bitterness. Living in these emotions is a painful and paralyzing way to be, and over time can take a toll — emotionally, spiritually, physically and socially.

The following are 5 important steps to forgiving someone: 

1. Become aware of your feelings and own them. 

Forgiveness can be complicated. We can lose ourselves in the hurt and unfairness of how someone treated us. Given this, we need to be aware, mindful of who we become in attitude and behavior by holding on to the anger and resentment.

It is from higher awareness that we can make more positive and healthy choices for ourselves despite an unfair act toward us. Own your feelings, rather than make the offender responsible for your feelings.

Waiting for someone to right the wrong gives them more power, control, and influence in your life in ways that only cause you to feel more powerless and helpless.

Forgiveness begins to reclaim the inner power, back to the person who gave it away in the first place, by holding on to resentment or bitterness… you.

2. Let go of resentment.

Resentment is illustrated like this: I am the one drinking the poison, but I want you to die.

Hanging on to resentment is a way to believe we have power and control over the person that hurt us. However, the opposite is true.

Hanging on to resentment actually gives more of your power and control to the unjust situation and person. Even though the situation is now in the past. Staying in resistance, hanging on to resentment and anger, keeps that person and their unjust act, boiling inside you, which only causes you more inner pain, you become toxic and unhappy.

With resentment, you are drinking the poison, becoming toxic; wanting the person that hurt you to suffer. Yet, you are the one hanging on to the wrongdoing, so you are the one who suffers.

3. Envision a freer existence. 

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." — Lewis B. Smedes

The true intent of forgiveness has to do with freeing ourselves from the belief that we’ve been a victim of injustice. It’s about freeing ourselves from the guilt of what we’ve done to others or ourselves.

It’s the process of reorientation of one’s perception, belief, and attitude around the hurtful experience. The ability to live our lives with love and acceptance is impeded when we don't forgive.

Forgiveness doesn't mean we excuse the error, or that we have to stay in a relationship with the person who was disloyal to us.

It means we forgive them in order to liberate ourselves.

When we forgive, we set ourselves free from the prison of the resentment and anger of the unjust cause. When we accept the unacceptable and forgive, we free ourselves from being controlled and defined by a past experience. We now have offered ourselves a more liberating and peaceful way of living.

4. Change your perspective from blame to curiosity.

The courage and willingness to move from blame to forgiveness allows for the opportunity within the unjust experience for you to see and learn from the experience. There is much empowerment moving from the mindset and attitude of “why me,” and “poor me,” to "Why not me?"

This perceptive opens the door of your mind and heart to view the experience and the offender from the higher perspective, in order to more clearly see and understand the lesson from the experience. It also allows for healthier possibilities and perspectives to come forth within you, of how to be with yourself and the world now.

People often hurt others — intentionally or not — because they are hurting themselves. Given this awareness, if you had some compassion for the one who hurt you, what would that do for you? 

It doesn’t mean it was right for them to hurt you.

It means you are willing to go beyond your own wounded ego self to see and accept their unresolved pain to what caused them to create a painful experience for you.

With this awareness, you choose now to forgive them. This frees you and perhaps you may even choose to encourage and support the offender in taking responsibility and dealing with their own inner pain. With no expectation or demand that they take ownership of their wrongdoing. Out of love and concern, you just offer them the opportunity, while you let go of what they do with this opportunity.

5. Stand like a mountain, flow like water.

Think of a mountain, it stands tall, strong, confident, and resilient. Now think of water in a stream, it flows, yet is flexible, adapting, and resilient, too.

To forgive is to stand like a mountain, it takes strength, courage, and confidence. Forgiveness is also to flow like water. It allows us to be adapting, flexible, and resilient.

It gets us moving with the flow of life again. Resistance and resentment keeps us dammed up or puts us in a stagnate pond with no movement and flow. We can’t stand tall, strong, or flow, in the energy of anger and resentment.

In closing, forgiveness is one of the highest acts of acceptance and love we can offer an offender and ourselves.

Its true intent is to free the forgiver from the shackles of anger and resentment so we can rise above the hurtful and unjust act with grace, inner peace, and freedom.

After all, love is freedom and freedom is love. Forgiveness is an act of love and a way to freedom.


RELATED: Is It Possible To TRULY Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Deeply?


Do you need help with forgiveness? David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed and spiritual social worker, certified life transition coach, and author of Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey. His practice, Transition Pathways, helps people find healthy pathways to love, greater awareness and higher potential. You can visit David's website for more information or to contact him.

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