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7 Practical Ways to Forgive and Move On

7 Practical Ways to Forgive and Move On

With the right mindset and good intentions, it is possible for you to forgive and move on. Whether it is getting yourself in the right frame of mind or if it is recognizing that forgiveness is tough, there are several practical ways you can get moving on the path of forgiveness. Let us help you make a change in your life that will pay off for years to come.

1. Recognize the Difficulty

“I learned a long time ago that some people would rather die than forgive. It’s a strange truth, but forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s an evolution of the heart.” Sue Monk Kidd

The struggle is real. I have heard many a time that bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. While that may be true, bitterness feels effective in the moment. It feels like the only just punishment for what has been done to you. I believe that feelings are a powerful tool that can give insight and help us make decisions, but when it comes to forgiveness our feelings cannot lead us into battle. The reality is that you will likely never feel like forgiving someone. That may come later, but if you are waiting to feel forgiveness for someone it will not happen.

A crucial step in forgiveness is recognizing that choosing to forgive someone is insanely difficult. It will go against all of your instincts. If it feels hard you are probably on the right path, so keep going! Set yourself up for success by recognizing that it will be hard and you are not alone in this challenge.

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“The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive.” Marianne Williamson

2. Tell Your Story

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Lewis Smedes

One of the most powerful ways to move towards forgiveness is to tell your story. Contrary to popular belief, merely venting is rarely effective. What makes a difference is having someone witness your story and validate your experience. Take the time to share what has happened to you with someone trustworthy. Healing begins when we face our pain in the presence of another person.

Carefully consider who will hear your story. As a culture we are not well trained in responding to another’s pain. Sharing your heart with someone is a vulnerable choice which can lead to healing, but if not properly cared for can also cause more damage. So care for yourself and choose your confidant’s wisely!

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3. Grieve Your Losses

“If I say, ‘I forgive you,’ I have implicitly said you have done something wrong to me. But what forgiveness is at its heart is both saying that justice has been violated and not letting that violation count against the offender.” Miroslav Volf

Some people would like us to bind up our wounds in a pretty package and move on with our lives. Many of us succumb to this social pressure and quickly gather our broken pieces together with a forced smile, leaving unaddressed pain lodged like a sliver in a scabbed over wound. Your wounds may appear to be healing, but with a thorn lodged under your skin there will always be pain. The only way to get through the pain is to experience and grieve your losses. Forgiveness is almost always about recognizing losses. What was done to you needs to be brought into the light and seen for what it was – a terrible loss of some form. You cannot sweep it under the rug or make it less than what it was. When you face the pain another person has caused you, then you will be able to take the steps towards healing and forgiveness.

“A personal offense is like a scratch on a phonograph record. I couldn’t move my thoughts beyond my pain. It kept repeating, as if I were stuck within its grooves. There was only one way to play beyond it. I had to forgive them, so my heart could take its form again.” Laurel Lea

4. Identify Learned Habits

“I tried to manipulate and control people, and I harbored resentment. I wanted to be forgiven, but I wouldn’t forgive others.” Lauryn Hill

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Part of forgiveness is being fully honest about has been done to you. This includes recognizing habits and patterns that you have adopted to compensate for your pain. The human body is not meant to harbor bitterness. Trauma, left unaddressed, lives in our bodies. How does your pain manifest itself? What do you do to daily act out the message that was sent to you when you were wronged? This question is hard to answer because it puts us in a frustrating place. It is easy to protest that the way we act is a result of the harm done to us, which is true. It is harder to peer into our own hearts, have compassion on ourselves and choose to take our lives on a different path. We do not need to be defined by what has been done to us. As long as we are acting out that message wrongly sent to us, we are allowing ourselves to be controlled by the perpetrator. A big step in forgiveness is admitting that we have (likely) also done wrong as a result of being wronged and not forgiving.

5. Practice Empathy

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” Thomas Fuller

A big step in forgiving someone is to humanize them. This does not mean making excuses for what they have done, but rather recognizing that they are flawed and carry damage of their own. Recognizing the humanity in another person allows you to break some of those messages that bound you. For example, rejection is a painful experience that may have led you to doubt and even hate yourself. Empathy helps us to understand that being rejected was not a reflection of our worth, but a reflection of the flawed human nature of the rejector. Practicing empathy takes the damaging focus off of us and on to the true problem: the person causing pain. Forgiveness is a rocky journey made smoother through seeking to understand and empathize.

6. Keep a Journal

“I didn’t have a catharsis for my childhood pain, most of us don’t, and until I learned how to forgive those people and let it go, I was unhappy.” Tyler Perry

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Writing is a healing practice. It slows our racing minds down and teaches us to dance to a slower beat. Writing allows us to dig through the muck in our hearts or minds and leave it out on a page. Slowly the weight will come off of your shoulders as you learn to filter your thoughts. Writing can be a place to vent our anger, grieve our pain and explore our hearts. It can also be a place to revisit when struggling with forgiviness in the future. Forgiveness itself is a foggy jungle maze, that can be made clearer through the practice of journaling.

7. Push Through

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’ Maya Angelou

You will have a choice to make. Forgive or don’t. Then you will need to keep making that choice over and over maybe for the rest of your life. You do not need to forgive. It is your choice – liberating isn’t it? You can choose to hold on to the anger forever. If you do choose forgiveness however, you cannot wait until you recieve an apology or until you feel like it. They will probably never deserve your forgiveness and it will never be fair. But healing and living a full life requires us to forgive. Most of us are more determined to live our lives full and free than we are to get even. If you want to forgive there comes a point where you need to just do it. Without forgoeing the necessary steps towards healing, choosing forgiveness is often times a matter of ignoring every instict you have and just choosing to be finished with it.

No one escapes this life unscathed. If you find yourself needing to forgive someone, you are in good company with the whole human race. Take time to care for yourself in this process. Give yourself grace to approach each stage imperfectly. Embrace the messy. Life is hard, many times excruciating, but forgivness is a gift given to us. It is an chance to escape lifelong dread and [eventually] restore ourselves to freedom.

“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.” Tyler Perry

Featured photo credit: Paulo Otavio Diniz Rodrigues via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Why We Say What We Won’t Do (but Still Say It Anyway)

Why We Say What We Won’t Do (but Still Say It Anyway)

Every day we say a lot about what we want and will do.

“I want to pet a cat.”

“I want to buy a house for my parents.”

“I don’t want to be single anymore.”

“I will love you no matter what.”

“I will work harder in the future.”

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    It’s easy to make plans for the future. And we make resolutions all the time. Consider that a full 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[1] And that a vast majority of relationships (plus many marriages) end as well with break-ups or divorce. The best intentions and the best-laid plans generally speaking end in failure.

    No one intended to lie

    In general, people make these kinds of promises or resolutions with the best intentions. They don’t want to fail; if anything, they want desperately to be right, to improve themselves, and to make their friends and family happy. So even if a resolution doesn’t work out, when they utter them, it’s far from a lie.

      People often speak without thinking. They say what comes to mind, but without really thinking it through. And what usually comes to mind is wishful thinking – the ideal result, not what’s possible and practical. It’s tempting to fantasize about a beautiful and perfect future: a good romantic relationship, to have the approval and respect of your parents, and to have a successful career.

      But how to get what you want is not always clear to you in the moment you utter it. It’s hard to see beyond just the easy, idealized image. The challenges you may come across, the disappointments and sadness you may face – none of that is anywhere to be seen in a daydreaming mind.

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      Wishful thinking often end in crushing disappointment

      The problem is this. Wishful thinking and fantasies will only end in disappointment if you don’t follow through. You disappoint your friends, your family, your boss, and – most importantly – yourself. This can really take a toll on your own psyche and sense of self-worth.

            At a personal level, you’ll have so many unfulfilled dreams and goals. This is an incredibly common situation for people everywhere. As a teenager, you might have dreamed of what your life would be like as an adult: happily married and with a successful and high-earning career by the time you’re 25. But these are two seriously challenging goals that take planning and effort. Many people find themselves alone and in a dead-end job – rather than a career – wondering where they went wrong.

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                On an interpersonal level, making empty promises is hurtful and damaging to relationships. Friendship and healthy family relationships are built on trust. People who want to be your friend take you at your word and expect you to follow through. If you tell your friends that you’ll “be there for them,” but never pick up the phone, they will be hurt and no longer want to hang out. The same is true for family or even professional relationships. You might find it tempting to tell your boss that you’ll finish a major project “by the end of the week,” without considering whether this is plausible. If you are unable to complete the task in the timeframe that you set, it’s not easy to regain your boss’s trust.

                Keep what you want to yourself

                It’s vital to be clear about what you want. Notice when people around you are prone to saying “I want ___” and “I don’t want ____.”

                Kids are very prone to saying all their wants out loud, partly because they don’t have the independence and resources to get it themselves. This is why children and young people are often vague about what they want in the future. They have lots of wants without a concrete plan on how to get them.

                This is one of the challenges of being an adult. As you gain the practical ability to provide for yourself, and as you learn from your mistakes, it’s more and more important to be clear about how you plan to get what you want.

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                  Practice visualizing plans to attain your goals. For example, you might want a pet – everyone shares pictures of their dogs and cats on Instagram! But before you go out to adopt one at the shelter, make sure you visualize all the things you have to do to take care of your pet. Pet-ownership involves: cleaning up after it, house-training it, taking it to the vet, walking it, buying it food, and making sure that it gets plenty of stimulation and exercise.

                  If you want or need a car, think about how much you need to save to purchase the car, the cleaning and maintenance costs, how to pay for regular car insurance, parking costs, et cetera.

                    If you really want something, don’t just say it. Plan for it and do it. Create conditions that make what you want inevitable. Do small things consistently and make it a habit. You’ll amaze yourself and your friends if you constantly work on attaining your goals. Read more about how to follow through your goals here: Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

                    It’s easy to make or break promises. Set yourself apart from others by being reliable, deliberate, and thoughtful. Match your intentions with planning and action, and you’ll find that you’re happier with yourself and that your relationships are enriched.

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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