How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You: 7 Simple Steps

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The only people with whom you should seek to get even with are those who have helped you.  ~ Lori Grenier 

We have all been let down by someone, or been in a toxic situation… whether in personal relationships, our families, or our jobs.  Let's be honest; it wouldn't hurt so much if we didn't care so much.  

Maybe it was that our trust was betrayed. Or perhaps because we expected the same level of care, dedication, commitment, or love out of others that we have shown ourselves.   

No matter the circumstances, forgiveness is not always an easy thing.  Some of us hold grudges, while others go a step further and seek revenge.  This is because they want the person who hurt them to feel the same hurt and disappointment they experienced.

When we were kids, and someone hurt our feelings or mistreated us, we were back playing together the next day.  This happened even after being forced to make insincere apologies to one another.  

But over time, as we grew up, the issues that separated us cut more deeply and took longer to heal.  However, it is to our benefit to learn to forgive those who have hurt us so that we are not stuck living in the past. 

Even worse, allowing this pain and disappointment to fester can eventually take control and define our entire lives…becoming our driving force.  And the direction it will lead us is no place good.

What is Forgiveness?

As defined by Psychologists, forgiveness is the conscious, deliberate choice to let go of feelings of anger or resentment toward a person or group that caused you harm.  This is regardless of whether it is deserved or not.  

Forgiveness is not glossing over or denying the seriousness of the offense that one has committed against you.  Likewise, forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting, making excuses for, or condoning someone’s actions.

Furthermore, while forgiveness is good for helping you repair a damaged relationship, it doesn't give you the obligation to be reconciled back with a person who caused you great harm.  Moreover, it doesn't mean you release them from any type of legal accountability.

Many of us think of forgiveness as a generous, kind act… one of compassion and mercy that we expend on a person who has treated us poorly.   This is true, and it also brings us many great benefits, even if we don't see it or feel like it initially.

The Benefits of Forgiveness

Forgiveness gives you freedom from internal anger and peace of mind.  Although there is debate as to whether true forgiveness requires having positive feelings toward the offender, most experts feel that forgiveness involves releasing deeply held negative emotions.  Doing so empowers you to take note of the anguish you have gone through without allowing it to define you.  Instead, it enables you to heal from it and move on with your life. 

Decades of research have shown enormous personal benefits that can be gained by offering a person forgiveness.   Here are some of the most compelling ways to show how forgiveness is good for us, our relationships with others personally, our jobs, and our communities.

  • First, forgiveness makes us happier people.  Research shows that happy people are more likely to forgive others, and forgiving others can also make people feel happy.  Especially when you forgive someone who you have been close to at some point in the relationship.
  • Forgiveness plays a significant role in protecting mental health.  Even people who seek therapy to foster forgiveness notice vast improvements in anxiety, depression, and feelings of hope.  It is said that forgiveness can also help prevent suicide.
  • Forgiveness helps to improve our physical health.  Our heart rate and blood pressure spike when we hold grudges and dwell on them.  These signs of stress damage our bodies.  However, when we are forgiving, our levels of stress drop, and it protects us from the adverse health side effects of grudges.  Furthermore, our immune system is compromised, making our bodies less able to fight off illnesses when we refuse to forgive.
  • A friend or family member will inevitably hurt or disappoint us.  But forgiveness sustains the relationship.  When holding grudges, we are not likely to sacrifice or cooperate with them because they undermine attitudes of trust and commitment and drive people further apart.  According to studies, forgiveness is needed to repair a relationship before it dissolves and saves it from a downward spiral.
  • In marriage, especially for newlyweds, forgiving your spouse can make the relationship stronger and more satisfying.  Spouses who are less vindictive and more forgiving are better at effective conflict resolution within the marriage.  Unfortunately, when the spouse who is more forgiving in the marriage is consistently mistreated by their husband or wife, they are less content with their marriage. 
  • Forgiveness helps you feel more positive toward someone who hurt you.  It boosts feelings of connectedness and kindness.  Those who are more forgiving are also most likely to donate money to charity or volunteer.  In general, it makes you feel more connected to people.
  • Forgiveness in kids and teens causes them to have a higher well-being.  For example, children who are bullied but practice forgiveness experience decreased aggression, anger, and delinquency.  But show vast improvements in their grades and empathy toward others.
  • Employees who practice forgiveness experience reduced stress in their work relationships.  This causes them to be more productive on the job and take fewer days off.  So, you could say forgiveness is excellent for the workplace, especially since you spend most of your waking hours there.
  • Self-forgiveness is something we must learn to practice.  In addition to improving our relationships with others, it also helps to make our mental and physical health better.    

How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You: 7 Simple Steps

Step 1.  Know that it is ok to feel angry or upset.

Most of us like to feel we are in control of our emotions.  It is said that we give others power over us when we get frustrated or upset about the actions of others.  But part of being able to forgive is not to shift the blame from others to ourselves. 

Instead, it is to know that we are justified in feeling how we feel.  Someone mistreated us, and it is going to have a negative effect on us emotionally.  Choosing to forgive helps us move on not be controlled by our emotions any longer.

Step 2.  Ask yourself if holding on to anger is harmful or beneficial.

It is one thing to be angry about what someone has done to us.  But we must ask ourselves if holding on to it long-term is helping or hurting us.  Holding grudges tends to do more harm than good, even if it may feel good at the moment. 

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Even though it might feel good at the moment, harboring resentments usually causes more harm than good.

Letting go and not holding on to those negative feelings is the first step in enabling us to move forward.  There is a lot more positive awaiting us in the future.  We must free our hands of the weight of past pain to fully embrace it.

Step 3.  Decide to forgive the person who wronged you.

Sometimes it is as easy (or difficult) as deciding to forgive.  Take a proactive approach and try to forgive.  We get tired of those negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts of what happened to dominate our minds.  So, before it leads to sadness, depression, or worse, develops into thoughts of retribution, we must decide to forgive. 

For most people, the decision to forgive happens when we realize that we have allowed what happened to us to affect our moods and decision-making reasoning.  It is a way to have the situation under control and the situation not have us.

Step 4.  Realize that you are not excusing someone’s bad behavior towards you.

Many of us hold on to grudges because we feel we are letting the offender “off the hook.”  However, forgiveness is not excusing someone’s offensive behavior shown to you.  It is choosing to forgive for yourself and not for others. 

Remember that you are forgiving because you want to move on, not because the person deserves it.  You know what they did to you was inappropriate and downright nasty in some instances, but you choose to cleanse your heart.  Again, you don’t excuse the actions done to you, but you accept it and make peace with it.  That is very different.

Step 5.  Remind yourself why you want a relationship with the person you are forgiving.

Depending on how close to the person you are and your history together, you may want to seriously consider why you want a relationship with this person.  The only way to move forward and have a meaningful relationship is to forgive. 

We may often be stubborn and feel justified in holding on to our grudges.  Still, depending on the relationship, it is most beneficial for our mental health and peace to forgive. 

For instance, Sarah went through a period of depression when she lost her father suddenly in a tragic accident.  During her darkest days, she was inconsolable and became emotionally abusive.  Her husband Jeff tried everything to comfort her, but she often took her anger and frustration out of him.  Sarah even resorted to telling Jeff that he was “good for nothing.” 

This drove a wedge into their relationship.  However, Jeff chose to forgive as the two sought to fix the relationship.  He loved Sarah and valued the marriage, and wanted to take steps to make things work.

Step 6.  Set healthy boundaries. 

We have all dealt with relatives, friends, or “so-called friends” who do things that are very offensive to us.   For some of them, it is just the way they are.  They speak what is on their minds and are very unapologetic about it.  But we must also realize that we can't make everyone happy, nor should we try. 

So, in those cases, it is best to set healthy boundaries.  Biblically it is called “guarding your heart.” (Proverbs 4:23).  When we guard our hearts, we walk in forgiveness while not giving the person access to us like they used to have. 

For example, you had your cousin over to your house for dinner.  While there, she snuck into your bedroom and stole some of your jewelry.  She is your cousin, you two grew up together, and you chose to forgive her, but remember, she never has to get an invite to your house again. 

Step 7.  Forgive yourself. 

One of the hardest things we can do yet is the most beneficial for us is to learn to forgive ourselves.  It is a powerful yet effective form of self-care.  So many times, we incarcerate ourselves mentally and emotionally because of the wrong someone else did to us. 

We simply don't understand how we could have let this happen to us, why we did not see the warning signs, or why we didn't listen when others tried to tell us about a person.  I have been through this. 

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Learning to forgive ourselves is one of the hardest things we can do yet is the most beneficial for us.

I used to be mad at myself for having a heart that was too big.  I remember venting to a friend and telling him that I would harm everyone else before they could do harm to me.   I also planned to treat others the way I had been treated.  This upset him, and he said, “You can’t do that!”  I replied, “Why not?”  Then he said something that changed my life at that moment.  He said, “Because you are not like them.”

After some thought, I realized I was not as mad at those who hurt me as I was myself.  So, instead, I blamed myself for what happened, and it was not my fault.  I didn't get in return what I gave out to others.  So, for that, I forgave myself and chose to forgive them.

Final Thoughts on How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You

Remember, the path to forgiving someone who hurt you is not always easy, but it is a necessary path to travel.  As you have seen in this article, it is to our benefit to be forgiving peopleI always say, “Life is not so much what happens to us, but our response to what happens.”

It has been said that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  The offender is going on with his or her life while we are stuck in a moment that deeply bruised us, and we feel that our anger towards them harms them somehow. 

Resentment can even make us delusional to the point of thinking that everything our offenders post about on social media or every moment of their day, they are thinking of ways to do us harm.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  We are frustrated, and they are in the Bahamas enjoying themselves (figuratively).

Holding a grudge kills us slowly and hinders relationships with other people who did not even offend us.  In other words, it can make us toxic Moreover, holding a grudge takes us from being the wounded to someone inflicting wounds on innocent bystanders. 

But that is not who we are.  We are good people who desire to live a peaceful and joyful life.  And it all starts when we learn how to forgive. 

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