What To Do When You Can’t Forgive Someone

Yesterday I put on snowshoes and went outside for a walk.  As I trudged through the backyard, I made a spontaneous decision to dedicate my walk to forgiveness.    

Turns out, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to forgiving people.  

I think of myself as a fairly loving and compassionate woman.  If you were to ask me about holding grudges, I'd tell you that I'm someone who lets things go.    

But the truth is I'd be lying.  

Sometimes, who we think we are is quite different from who we really are. 

At least that's what I discovered on my trek through the snow.

As I made my way up and down hills thinking about the people I wanted to forgive, the number surprised me.  So I started a little ritual. When someone came to mind, I repeated the following words, out loud, like a prayer:   

I forgive you _______.  I bless you and I let you go.  

For more than an hour I continued this practice, step-by-snowy-step.  Someone came to mind, I repeated the prayer, someone else came to mind, I repeated the prayer, the same person came to mind again, and I repeated the prayer over and over.   

By the end of my walk, I came face-to-face with what I like to forget when my ego gets wrapped up in the pain of perceived and real injustice:

My angry thoughts are what hurt me now, not the people from my past.  

Yes, investing my energy in painful memories is what keeps the chips on my shoulder firmly in place.  I'm the one fostering feelings of resentment and bitterness with my hostile thoughts.  

I love the idea of forgiveness.  I'd love nothing more than to think about someone, say a prayer, and be done with the past for good.  But life doesn't work that way.

Healing comes before forgiveness.  Understanding and compassion are conditions of release.  Spiritual vision is what's needed to see beyond the smallness of my humanity.  

Every now and then I catch a glimpse of life on the other side of forgiveness. I have a brief, enlightened moment when a small voice behind my righteous mind tells me that love really is the answer. It reminds me that hurt people hurt people because of their pain, not because they find some perverse pleasure in causing harm.   

I'd like to trust that voice more and I'm open to learning how.  

In the meantime, I'm grateful for my desire to forgive.  It's a good first step.  And, given what my little date with forgiveness taught me about how far I still need to go, I guess I'll begin with me...

 Feel free to use this affirmation, too: I forgive myself for my inability to forgive. 

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Vision Hawk 15th January 2016 3:38 pm

Hi Cheryl.....
I can't get a handle on the affirmation, as I don't want to reinforce a negative belief.
Perhaps the affirmation could be "I am grateful for my growing ability to forgive ". ?

Liza Elliott 16th January 2016 5:19 pm

In my experience, I have found that those we think we need to forgive are actually mirroring what we ourselves have done to others, and that it is really ourselves that need forgiveness. . . from ourselves. We just don't like it when we see it in others and so we call it "them".
My prayer when forgiveness comes up is one I have come across many times through the works of others. I think of the person whom I believe has "wronged" me. Consider where, in my life, I have done the very same thing or something similar, and I say to each one of us (3X) :
I'm sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Thank you.

Thank you, Cheryl, for this article, which helped me remember this process. :smitten:


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Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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