Forgiveness is a very tricky thing. To truly forgive someone, you have to acknowledge that they did something bad or maybe even downright terrible to you, but look past it to value the things that they offer, all the while trying not to lose your dignity. I’ve had to forgive someone I was angry with at several different times in my life, for entirely different reasons. Here are some tricks I’ve learned throughout my life on how to forgive in a way that maintains your dignity and avoids losing a friend.
1. Remember your bond.
One time I was in a major feud with my own sibling. I didn’t think what he did was right, or fair, or even justifiable, but what I did to forgive him was remember how important a relationship between brothers is. Not only did we grow up together, but we would continue to see each other whether we wanted to or not, probably for the rest of our lives, due to family. That’s not even to mention the important fact that I love him, and could remember the good times with him that far outweighed one thing that greatly offended me. Since I was able to forgive him, my brother has become one of my closest friends if still not necessarily one of my favorite people.
2. Think about worse things that have happened to you.
I forgave one person for something pretty bad they did to me almost immediately because I couldn’t imagine not having them in my life at the time. That made me realize that what a former buddy of mine did to me that caused me to stop talking to him paled in comparison to what I was so willing to so quickly absolve. I got in touch with him as soon as I came to that realization and our friendship became stronger despite the fracture. Always remember what you’ve been willing to forgive in the past before sacrificing a strong friendship just because of temporarily hurt feelings.
3. You don’t have to actually tell your friend that you forgive them.
This staple of forgiveness is understood by far too few people in the world. You should forgive because of what it does for you, not for the sake of the one who offended you. Sometimes you would lose respect in their eyes if you reached out to them and told them that you forgive them, especially if they didn’t do anything to earn that forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t let go of your anger towards them quietly.
The real power of forgiving someone else is to let yourself stop having negative emotions towards them that weigh you down. Making the offender feel better can sometimes be a plus, but in some cases it’s not your duty to absolve them of their guilt. As confusing as it may sound, you can be ready to forgive someone before you’re ready to tell them about it.
4. Think about what you’d lose.
Sometimes your pride, as valuable as it might be to you, isn’t worth what losing a friend would cost you on a social, emotional, or personal level. Even if you’re really angry with another person, you have to maintain a sense of pragmatism before you throw a friendship that’s spanned years out the window. Remember all the good times you’ve had together. In a lot of cases all of those good feelings will outweigh the nasty ones you’re experiencing at the moment. The importance of a good friendship is rarely overstated.
Even if you don’t think your friend really deserves forgiveness, keep in mind that you’ll be the one who suffers the most from holding on to your anger.
Featured photo credit: forgive/timlewisnm via flickr.com