We are given many reasons to forgive those who have wronged us. Advocates may cite scripture, Karma, personal health, psychology, or family unity. Forgiveness is not easy — sometimes it can take a lifetime to be able to accomplish that task.
Most religions order us to forgive — in Christianity we are told to “turn the other cheek”. This can be hard to reconcile with psychiatric advice to “stand up for yourself” — but forgiveness can be a hidden blessing to you. Refusing to forgive creates a burden on the one who was wronged. It means you are carrying a connection to that abuse, strengthening your memory of being a victim. Know that forgiving someone does NOT mean you condone their actions, just that you are ready to move on with your own life and release the connection to that past pain. Doing this may help reduce current pain you carry.
Sometimes the person who wronged you will not accept forgiveness. They are adamant that they did nothing wrong (or even that they did nothing at all). It can be very hard to forgive when others deny that your trauma even happened. But forgiveness is for YOU, not for them. You can forgive someone in your heart, even after they have died or you have had to cut off all contact for your own safety. You can write a letter that you do not send, or include your forgiveness in a prayer. If you are sincere, it will be as if a burden is lifted from your shoulders.
Sometimes finding reasons or explanation (NOT excuses, NOT justifications) for the other person’s bad behavior can help you find a way to forgive:
- The person didn’t realize they were harming you
- The person suffered similar harm and thought such behavior was normal
- The person had no role model to teach them proper behavior
- The person was sent to teach you a karmic lesson
- The person has a mental disorder or impulse control illness
- The person was projecting their hatred of someone else onto you
- Carrying the memory is hurting you more than them
Know that forgiveness can be a private thing. You have no obligation to tell others that you have forgiven someone. Also know that in most cases the abuse is not personal, not because of something you did — you were just there, so you became the target. As an adult, you can walk away. You can remove toxic people from your life by cutting off any physical or verbal contact. To cut the final spiritual connection, find it in yourself to forgive.