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BeccaBoo's avatar

How do you forgive?

Asked by BeccaBoo (2715 points ) February 9th, 2012

How do you go into your head and mentally forgive someone that has hurt you?
I struggle with this, people say all the time ‘forgive and forget’ but how do you do that?
What if something has happened to you that is so mentally scarring and goes against every fiber in your body, you want to forgive the person, but your head wont allow it.

I can forgive trivial things that are mistakes people make in life, but if someone goes out deliberately to hurt you and knows its going to effect you, then a few years down the line decides that because they have moved on a put it down to a ‘bad part’ of their life, expect you to do the same, how would one forgive?

Why should one person (ie the victim) be expected to change their moral beliefs and standards for someone else’s cruelty and then be the one to forgive and move on, if it effects them to the extent its changed who they are for the better?

This is probably confusing to read, but I am really curious as to what peoples idea’s about forgiveness are, and its better for me if I generalise this question rather than be specific.

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17 Answers

auntydeb's avatar

Hi @BeccaBoo, looks like I’m first here, so I’ll try and make it useful! It is difficult to forgive. But, there has to be some understanding of what the term means in the first place. You mention to ‘forgive and forget’, which I think can be misinterpreted, particularly as ‘forgive and condone’.

As time passes after a trauma, there is every chance that everyday life will fill in the gaps, to the extent that the time of difficulty or pain becomes less and less important. It takes an effort to recall, becomes pointless in accessing, it has formed part of the simple past. When that happens, some forgetting has taken place and maybe, by default, forgiving also. It does not mean that it was ok for someone to behave badly in the first place. Or that the action or situation was ‘ok’ after all. Time has simply permitted the weight or impact of the event to lessen, to be worn out and perhaps forgotten.

I prefer to see forgiving as a more active process. It takes examination, a bit of self-questioning. For example, exactly what happened? Not to tell here, but to really look back at the difficulty. From as many angles as possible. How were you affected then, how has the residue remained to affect you now? Go over it as much as you can, see if you can find a fatigue in the remembering. Basically, add the time in yourself, see that perhaps independent of the damage, you function fine. Like getting even, instead of mad.

You know you can never change the person that affected you like this. So, the option is to change your own view. See that the pain, anger or injustice inside you will actually do you harm. Do some therapeutic anger release – tearing up all the paper recycling can be fun! Draw a picture of the person, jump up and down on it, use it to er, well, in the toilet! These things help you with feeling that you have some power, without ever approaching the person with whom you share the darker past events. You might also laugh.

Laughter is in fact, the best way to get over, to forgive and let forgetting happen. As long as you feel victimised, angry, hurt, the bad guy has one over on you. So, imagine them sitting on the toilet, trousers round ankles… Then shout ‘boo’!! I think you might laugh at that… maybe? Laugh – even cackle if that helps – as you imagine their head between your fingers and squeeze it really hard. Diminishing your own response, having a real laugh, will really help.

Then imagine yourself walking in the company of your chosen peace-maker. Jesus, Dalai Lama, Luther King, or a non-religious character and chat to them about it. See how unimportant it is in the scheme of things. The imagine yourself walking along, with chosen lovely, and seeing the person who has hurt you. What’s more important, your anger, or letting them go by without reacting at all? Forget the hurt, it only hurts you more. Forgive? Well, let go at least. Let the thing recede from you. Let it go away to be replaced by more fun, better times and a nice walk with someone special.

Phew. I do enjoy a good waffle! Good question :o)

ucme's avatar

An unerringly accurate ability to place things in perspective….....yeah, that’s it.

longtresses's avatar

One demeaning stare from a stranger can burn in your memory for years…

Why, I do not know. Maybe my puzzlement was unresolved, and naturally we are problem-solving creatures who seek closures. Even with curtain closed, we turn the even in our head over and over… and it’s us with ourselves now.

For me, what helped was, rather than seeing it as forgiving someone, you make peace with yourself. You let go not because you forgive something outside of yourself, but because it makes you feel lighter, freer. You know where to direct your energy for what it’s worth.

Maybe he’s not out to hurt you, but he’s just being who he is, a prickly cactus. Just saying..

JilltheTooth's avatar

I don’t see forgiving as something that applies to the other person, I see “forgiving” as something you do for yourself. Until you forgive, it’s like you take poison every day hoping someone else will get sick. Forgiving is not about going back to the old ways and patterns, or even necessarily maintaining a relationship with the person, it’s (again I say, this is how I see it) about me not thinking about it or bring hurt by the memory anymore. Easier said than done. Time helps with that, replacing the angry memory with something else entirely, if you’re looping. I have in the past, trained myself to imagine a STOP sign when I start to think obsessively of the offending person or event, then substitute something else, in my case I used a beach scene.
Remember, it’s about healing yourself not about the other person.

Coloma's avatar

@JilltheTooth said it well.
Forgiveness does not mean you choose to continue to associate with someone who has harmed you, but, it does mean you let go for yourself. It helps to understand that those that do harmful things are unconscious and unaware. A healthy, self aware and conscious person is simply not capable of perpetrating seriously destructive behavior. Only those that live in ignorance and disconnect from self are capable of seriously harmful behaviors.

GoldieAV16's avatar

Forgiveness and acceptance are two different things.

In order to “forgive,” the party who wronged you must be remorseful and repent. They must sincerely regret their wrongdoing, and make some effort to correct the wrong. I think they must also offer some assurance of a desire to change. In this case, you can offer forgiveness.

Without the wrongdoer’s remorse and repentance, you are left with acceptance as the road to peace. I think it’s infinitely more difficult, because it’s a solo effort. But without acceptance you’re left with living a life of regret over actions not your own – the wrongdoer’s. I think that meditation, physical exercise, walking, therapy (group or individual), talking with loved ones who understand, reading books on acceptance…all of these can be helpful in taking that path of acceptance.

The reality is that some things can never be forgiven, nor should they. But life goes on, and we all deserve a peaceful existence.

marinelife's avatar

I am like you. I do not forgive easily.

Judi's avatar

For me, forgiveness is not accepting the behavior, or putting myself in a position of vulnerability again, it’s just no longer allowing the offender to occupy space and frustration in my head about it. It is letting them “off the hook” in my heart, therefore allowing me to move on and heal myself.

SABOTEUR's avatar

I forget where I read this…probably Conversations With God or A Course In Miracles…but the definition of forgiveness was…

…not finding fault or finding no offense.

The way we have forgiveness set up is backwards. We choose to be hurt by something someone says or does. Then we grant mercy upon the offender by pretending we no longer find “the offender” responsible for our pain.

True forgiveness, they say, is the conscious choice not to be offended in the first place.
Since no offense is taken, there’s no reason to forgive.

SABOTEUR's avatar

As far as the concept of “being the bigger person” by offering forgiveness, there’s a very practical reason for forgiving someone.

Seeing oneself as a victim is a lot like intentionally holding hot coal.

You torture yourself.

You inflict more pain upon yourself than whatever it was that supposedly victimized you.
So…practically speaking…it ain’t so much about releasing the offender.
It’s about releasing yourself from self-inflicted agony.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

This is tough. I’ve come up against in and my reply and reaction is to say the person who did the hurting can ask for and feel about themselves whatever they want but if I’m the hurt party, I don’t have to go along with any of it. I can understand and empathize but I don’t have to forgive or forget.

People who fly this across to the people they’ve hurt should be willing to accept the consequences of their actions and not have too high of expectations.

wundayatta's avatar

I think this is very complicated. First of all, there are two sets of forgiveness issues. One that has to do with the person who harmed you, and the other that has to do with your response to that behavior.

The first part has to do with your relationship with the person who harmed you. They may want, somehow, to repair the relationship. It is their duty, if they want to repair things, to seek you out and to explain what they did, to tell you what they plan to do to prevent them from doing this kind of harm to you again, and to ask you to give them a second chance.

You do not need to have any further relationship with this person. Ever. However, if you do want to forgive them, that does not mean you have to forget what they did to you. It is only if you want to have a further relationship where you are not constantly reminding them of what they did that you have to do some forgetting.

The only reason you “forget” is so that you aren’t reminding them (and yourself) of what happened all the time. That won’t help. But if you successfully manage to put those memories aside, you can still remember what kind of person this is, in case they act the same again. You do not want them to hurt you again, and to that end, you can’t afford to forget.

But then there’s the work inside. Often, we need to forgive someone in order to get past an event. By “get past,” I mean keep that event from getting in the way of everything because the memories clog up your thoughts. If your mind is constantly going around about what happened, and what could have happened, or what should have happened, you can’t focus on your current life. You start living in the past. That’s probably not a happy existence.

Let’s say a good friend is murdered. You may want the murderer to be put to death. This may seem like the way to balance things. Maybe you feel it will free you of the matter.

It might, but most people report that it’s not so simple. Sometimes it prevents getting past the event because there are things you want to know. But mostly it’s about being able to get past it yourself. Putting it in the past. I think forgiveness is the feeling people have when they put something in the past and say they are moving on now to the rest of their lives. Their lives are no longer about the harm done them. Their lives are now about what’s happening today.

It’s not an easy process. Part of it may have to do with understanding why the person did what they did. Hearing their story can help. But you have to be able to listen to the story if you want to hear it, and if you are always bashing the person, you’ll never listen to the story.

You may not want to hear it. You may think you don’t want to know. But in the end, you may need to know if you are to get past it. If you are to incorporate it in your life.

You need to learn the lessons of the event. You need this in order to accept that it happened. You need to learn them in order to feel like you can avoid something similar in the future. This all takes work. Usually in therapy. But you can do it on your own, too.

Good luck.

Blondesjon's avatar

I can forgive. I just can’t forget.

YARNLADY's avatar

Like @Blondesjon above me, I don’t hold a grudge, but I do not place myself in the same position again. I loaned a relative several thousand dollars, and he never paid it back, but I am still just as civil to him as I ever was. However, I will never loan him money again.

pshizzle's avatar

Forgive, but never forget. Forget, but never forgive. Depending on your situation, one of those philosophies apply to you.

partyrock's avatar

” You forgive not because the other person is right, but so you can free yourself and move on.”

Describes it I think…

It’s very broad but I think it would have to do with the situation and people involved.

mattbrowne's avatar

By thinking of a hot piece of charcoal in my hand meant to be thrown. All this does is getting my own hand burned.

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