Updated: Mar 11
Forgiveness can be both incredibly freeing and incredibly fickle. Despite the concept being quite simple, it can be difficult for us to move past the hurt someone has caused in our lives. Not only that, but often it can be complicated to forgive someone and know how to move forward with the relationship. These tips can help to establish a framework from which to approach forgiveness that can help with navigating all of the emotions and aspects of the process. Acknowledge the Hurt Typically, when we’re approaching the topic of forgiving someone, it’s because they have done something to hurt us. Regardless of how “big” or “small” the hurt may be, it’s essential that we are honest with ourselves about the hurt that someone has caused us. This step can be done with a journal, a trusted confidant, or some intentional self-talk. By acknowledging how something made us feel, we can then move into understanding what we need to do about it. Address the Relationship Once we’ve established how we feel about something that affected us, the next step is to address how that hurt will impact the relationship from which it stemmed. This is an internal step, but it can include your support system or trusted confidant. Addressing the relationship means that we create a plan for how we will implement boundaries that will prevent hurt from happening again (as best as possible – all people are flawed, and no relationship will ever be perfect). We need to assess areas in which the relationship needs to change or adapt in order to better protect both us and the other party from hurting one another. This part can be tricky as some relationships are optional (like friends or dating relationships) and others are much less optional (like family or co-workers). In order to forgive well, we have to find ways in which to prevent harm from happening when it should not. Affirm the Boundaries After addressing how to handle moving forward in the relationship, we must affirm the boundaries of the relationship. This can sometimes look like a simple conversation sharing that someone has said/done something hurtful. However, sometimes the hurt caused can cause a complete shift in the relationship entirely. If a friend has continuously done something to hurt us and we’ve asked said friend to stop this behavior, it may require that we establish new boundaries with this person. Perhaps our frequency of interaction needs to lessen, or maybe we need to share less information with this person in order to protect ourselves. It is important to note that forgiveness does not always mean that we re-engage in the relationship any longer. Forgiveness can involve us realizing that moving forward means letting go of the hurt this person has caused, but it can mean that the relationship needs to terminate altogether. We have to establish boundaries with our relationships that prioritize health in our lives! (While these tips are helpful, they are by no means exhaustive, and it should also be noted that in situations where deep trauma or abuse has taken place, these tips may not apply.) Again, forgiveness can be tricky for everyone, but it also can be deeply freeing. The goal is for us to find ways to not only release emotional tension, but also we need to set ourselves (and others) up for success in relationships. Hopefully these tips will allow us to process forgiveness well in order to move forward in all of our relationships.