Menu
Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!

3 Unconventional Tips for Forgiving and Letting Go

Girl in Field

“The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment.” ~Pema Chodron

Forgiveness is good, right? I don’t mean in a heal the planet kind of way—I mean in a selfish, me me me kind of way.

We want to let go of our resentments and connect with people genuinely. We want to feel happy and contented, full of love for ourselves and those around us. We want to run “carefreely” through the fields in a pretty cotton dress, not sit around in our pajamas, twisted with bitterness.

But how do you experience genuine forgiveness and stop feeling resentful? Because it’s one thing to know it intellectually but another to actually feel it. Like, in your bones.

A few years ago, in an effort to “get over things,” here’s what I did:

I read. I saw a therapist. I journaled. I even did the thing where you write down your hurt feelings, burn the piece of paper, and poof, up they all go.

(I also did the one where you put your “angry feelings” in the freezer to help you calm down.)

And sure. I felt a little better.

But I was a long way from getting out my sundress and Googling “field with long grass to run through.” There was still that nagging thought: if they hadn’t done (blah de blah) then I wouldn’t have to deal with this.

And it’s confusing—if you forgive, does it mean someone’s off the hook?

It’s as if one bit of your brain is saying “It’s all good” and the other bit is saying, “Ah, I don’t think so, mister.” And in a way, this is exactly what is happening.

Trying to forgive someone is like trying to give up smoking; until you change your underlying beliefs it’s almost impossible.

Most smoking cessation campaigns focus on the effects. The images are frightening but they rarely change behavior.

The most successful technique to stop smoking is Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. It was how Ellen, Ashton, and I quit.

So how does Carr succeed where squillions of health promotion dollars fail?

It’s simple. Carr explains that cigarettes don’t elevate you to some higher plain, like most smokers think. The nicotine just raises you up to where non-smokers are naturally and then drops you back down, almost seconds after your last puff.

The belief at the heart of why smokers don’t want to stop is they’ll miss out on the relaxing feelings. But Carr shows, give up smoking and feeling good becomes the norm. He flips the old belief.

And this is what we need to do when dealing with the slippery fish of forgiveness. We need to flip the beliefs that make it seem difficult.

I used to see forgiveness as something you did. A verb. Now, I see it more as a noun—something that occurs naturally when you understand the truth about your thoughts and feelings.  

Here are my 3 Carr-like forgiveness “belief flippers” that have helped me not only let go of hurt feelings but deepen my sense of well-being.

Admittedly, the bigger the hurt, the more challenging this gets. My hunch is these ideas might help the thing you’re trying to let go of.

1. Your thoughts cause your feelings.

A few years ago during an intensely challenging personal time, a good friend of mine told me she no longer wanted to be friends. It touched something deep within me, and for a long time I saw her actions as hurtful.

But then I realized two things:

First, I was being supremely self-centered by not considering what it was like for her.

And second, the real reason I was upset had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. She hadn’t done anything to me, really, but my “I’m not good enough” radar was going off big time.

My hurt feelings were due to what I thought of myself deep down. (I say “deep down” because not so deep down, I’d convinced myself I was awesome).

If my sense of self-worth had been rock-solid, I would’ve more easily seen her side of things. Yes, I would have missed her, but I wouldn’t have taken it personally and felt heart broken.

Your feelings are the result of what you tell yourself about what happened. It’s your thinking causing your pain.  

Which in practical terms means you need to stop blaming others for how you feel.

2. The art of just noticing.

So if thinking is the cause of icky feelings, you should change your thoughts, right? Or at least figure out where they come from?

This is a common belief. But it’s also, I believe, the hardest way. Here’s what I think is a better option:

Rather than try and think a different thought, like gratitude, or even forgiveness, just notice your thoughts without getting caught up in them.

Once I understood I was the creator of my own feelings, this is what I did. And for years, on the odd occasion the topic of my friend came up I’d burst into tears, but always I’d be thinking, “Wow, am I really still working through that?” Almost as if I were a bystander.

And guess what? Over time, my sad feelings lessened and my genuine love grew. Not just for my friend, but for me too.

By not judging my feelings or blaming them on anyone else there’s been a shift in something much bigger—my sense of self worth has got stronger.

It’s not like I don’t get upset anymore. Cripes no. I do. But knowing that my feelings are “my bad,” I rarely take it personally. The sting has gone.

3. Consider that there’s nothing to forgive.

Over the years I’ve thought about the shift that happens when we go from feeling angry and hurt to loving and peaceful.

Are we learning forgiveness or do we simply reach a point where we now see there was nothing to forgive in the first place?

Is forgiveness so tricky because the real “cotton dress running through the fields” feeling we’re after only comes once we realize there’s nothing to forgive??

To help me wrap my head around this I find it helpful to consider the larger picture. As in, outer space large:

I imagine a kinder, wiser and more compassionate version of myself sitting on the moon, perhaps kicking back on a deck chair drinking a margarita with Alice Kramden, looking down and watching, as the earthly me muddles my way through life…

Watching myself hold onto dodgy beliefs and making some epic mistakes.

Watching children around me born into challenging times and how this affects their sense of self-worth and how easily this passes on to others.

Watching us all learning to love ourselves unconditionally—trying, failing, and even succeeding, as we do.

And I figure this wise margarita-drinking self would conclude that everyone in their own unique way was doing their best.

And when you think about it, if everyone’s doing their best, what’s to forgive—doing your best? 

Toss around the idea: “Forgiveness is understanding there’s nothing to forgive.” It’s big, but when it sinks in, it really helps. And check this out…

Forgiveness is understanding. There’s nothing to forgive.

Photo by Shanon Wise

Avatar of Lisa Esile

About Lisa Esile

Lisa is the author of "7 Secrets Your Mind Doesn't Want You To Know" which you can download for free at her website. Lisa grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Venice, California with her husband.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Judy Crawford

    Very profound. And what I especially appreciate is the way you explained the process, and our thought “causing” feelings. Yes!

  • Lor1928

    Thanks for this. In the past 16 months I have meditated on forgiveness and still find it a fleeting comfort. Partner of 27 years lied and cheated and left.

    I fluctate between the extremes of “He is an unhappy person who has made unfortunate choices but doing best he can with where he is” and “I hate him and all the pain he has caused me and our family” – most days I am somewhere in between…sometimes both extremes can occur within the same day!!

  • Bryan

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I was in what seemed like a really good relationship with much promise that ended suddenly 18 months ago. I keep trying to move on, but it’s hard.

    I can relate to the roller coaster of feelings. For me, it’s missing her badly can suddenly become I’m furious for how she ended us. One small solace is that on those days when the pain still moves me to tears, I can look at myself with a little surprise that it still hurts a great deal.

    I hope to someday soon return to running in that field of grass without a care in the world. Just not there yet!

  • lv2terp

    BRILLIANT!!! Thank you for sharing your perspective in such a beautiful way! I love this message, and appreciate this concept … :And when you think about it, if everyone’s doing their best, what’s to forgive—doing your best? ” Fantastic!!!! :)

  • fridayguest

    First, may I please steal the word “squillions”? –love it! I enjoy reading the many perspectives of people who are struggling with forgiveness(not that I enjoy seeing other people struggle, just the fact that I’m not alone in my own struggle). I must admit that I keep returning to the same place because I have not yet found my peace with certain things that occured in my life. If I am honest with myself, I live in fear that once I forgive, somehow the pain will happen again or even scarier, that the things that occured will occur again because the offending party was right and I was wrong. But what I take from this wonderful message is that it isn’t always about me. Every little bit of advice helps!

  • Rachna Bobade

    I loved your take on forgiveness and I agree that everyone behaves as per their best knowledge. I try to forgive people who offended me and I am still working on it. I feel like mentioning my Ex boyfriend here, we were together for 3 years. The relationship went very complicated over a period of time as we fought a lot, he would abuse me, tried hitting me once, he was into substance abuse but he had told me he has reduced it a lot after he met me, and he will be always blame me in return that I made provoked him to abuse. He would smoke pot but he told me it was a herb and I believed him since I do do not even know what drugs look like and the types in it. We were not compatible, he would do drugs, smoke, made friends easily, easy going, booze, party and I was totally opposite but the love I felt for him was genuine and I only wanted the best for him. He was a high school dropout and I suggested him to continue his study and he decided to complete his graduation and now is appearing for his final year. We broke after a year and half and then I never contacted him. Suddenly he started calling me, saying that he missed me and I was the best thing that happened to him. We started meeting just to watch movies once in a while like once in 2-3 months but after some meets he started getting close to me and I would always maintain my distance. He told me he will be with me till the time I am single. the last time we met we had a fight and then we hardly spoke to each other though he would keep messaging me to meet him till I came to know that he is dating somebody else. I am not hurt and angry. I feel annoyed that he is dating this girl and this is the same girl who I fought with as she and him had made out before we dated and she had started getting close to him again while we were together. I am sorry this going very long but I am so confused and annoyed and I keep checking his and her picture and it stings. He now tells me that we had broken up and he did not do anything wrong by dating this new girl and it is not like how it was between me and him, that they both are not serious about each other etc but then he kept messaging me to meet him, he would message me that he needs me and a lot of stuff while he was with her. Fortunately I did not got carried away else I would have felt devastated. I still feel used and cheated by him. I keep calling him now and text him often about how much he has hurted me but it just seems like a fodder for his ego though he tells me that he has broken up with her, he even called me the day he had a fight with her to tell me that he deserves this pain as he treated me the same way. I do think he is stupid and acted as per his knowledge or lack of it but it stings when I think about him an this girl. I know once I move on I will have a better future, I feel good that I was honest but it still stings a lot and this does not lets me forgive him.

  • Joeycradio

    Wow

  • John Thornton

    I began reading this with some dim hope that I might gain solace and forgiveness for my ex, a good-time Johnny who walked out on me after 24 years together, when I got sick. But surprisingly, your article gave me insight into something I hadn’t expected.

    My first, great, “true” love was a long-term relationship which finished horribly – and, as it ended, I behaved badly, very badly. Decades later I made amends to my first true love and, though he accepted my amends magnaminously, he reassured me there was now nothing to forgive; he understood why I acted the way I did. I was gobsmacked but I didn’t really “get” what he meant and it’s been puzzling me for years since. Today you helped me gain some insight into what he said and how he might have felt. (Now all I have to do is “simply” apply it to my own affairs!)

    Many thanks for a great piece of writing!

  • Lisaesile

    Thanks Judy:)

  • Lisaesile

    Have you read my book “7 Secrets Your Mind Doesn’t Want You to Know”? (It’s available on my website, no charge.) I mention it because in it I talk about how it’s the nature of the mind to do the very thing you’re talking about – holding on to things. Not wanting to change. But that ultimately, our mind is not always the best guide. And that by having an awareness of these habits can help you pay less attention to those concerns our mind naturally throws up.

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion and sharing your situation. The best of wishes to you:)

  • Lisaesile

    Exactly! And thank you:)

  • bluefishtoo@gmail.com

    This is one of the best, most helpful and least superficial posts I’ve read on Tiny Buddha. Thank you for your insight into this topic.

  • Lisaesile

    My great pleasure. This article attempts to cover some pretty big ground – I really am pleased to hear it shed some light on a troubling issue. These things are so often a process. I can’t think of a more noble way to go about it than giving ourselves the space to not “get it” all the time. And then when we do, that’s cool too. Have a great day!!

  • Lisaesile

    You are so welcome! Thanks for stopping by and saying!

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    I really enjoyed your post Lisa – and the three step process makes a lot of sense. I have been an observer of my stupid (without judgement) thoughts that I know aren’t contributing to happiness and healing for a long time now. I’ts that final step of realising that there is nothing to forgive that is the hardest – maybe instead of focusing on forgiveness we should just be cultivating kindness and compassion so that we realise we are all human and make mistakes and do things that hurt from places of hurt. I’m going to have a renewed focus on that last step – applying it to forgiving myself.

  • Shakthi

    Reading this article fills me in with peace (after a week of inner turmoil). Thank you so much for sharing this great insight!

  • Soli

    Thank you for sharing :-) I think it is important for you to get our emotions and really understand what you are feeling than bottle it up. Now the question is, now what? How will you move beyond this issue? I have had issues with past guys I have dated that wanted to reconnect, but my gut feeling/intuition told me not to, in addition to logic. I decided to go cold turkey not speaking to the guys, and I have never been better when it comes to my mental health and confidence. Please, do not allow your authenticity and power to be compromised. Much Love, Soli

  • Shelley Moore Spliethof

    Excellent blog. Could not have come at a better time. Thanks!

  • Tracy Carpenter

    Lisa, I can grasp the illustration aobut forgiving an old friend who hurt you. I am having a bit of a problem aligning the idea of “they were just dong their best” to a sexually abusive uncle. There WAS something to forgive here. Any advice?

  • Judy Christine Thomas

    I agree with Ms. Carpenter. What about situations where there was actual harm caused by another person (abuse, theft, assault & battery, etc)? You can work on owning your own emotions to improve your current mental state but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is nothing to forgive.

  • Dee

    Hi Tracy-I can understand a slight knee jerk reaction to the ‘friend’ situation being compared to an abusive uncle. I haven’t spoken to a family member for approximately 20 years now because of sexual abuse, and I recently had a ‘friend’ dump me. I came to see the friend dumping me as a favor she did me because she was so negative and attached to being a victim and did not want to be cheered up. I learned that I resented being dragged down. More importantly, the friend’s rejection of me reminded me of being rejected by my family who all sided with ‘the abuser’ because they did not want to believe that he would do that to me even though it came out that he was sexually abused when he was younger. This was a close family member. It has taken me so long to forgive him and all of them…and myself. I have done all the right things and many self-destructive things as well, which is the norm with this kind of abuse. I am finally at a place where I am genuinely less concerned with what others think and why they did what they did. It helped me to understand and truly empathize with the abusers but, what has helped me more to forgive, is to LOVE myself. I mean, really appreciate how strong and beautiful a person I am. How unique each one of us is! I had to look at the self-loathing that was really well hidden in my case because I have been very conscious and an empath since I was very young, and get rid of that self-denigration by saying no to the psychic vampires and only truly give myself time to get reacquainted with my higher self and purpose through meditation, healthy living, exercise, balance and creativity. Too much to write-but you must give yourself the love you would give that little girl who was abused-no one else can really do that but you. You may have to go through some of those shadow feelings, but you don’t have to do it alone. I did for the most and it has taken me so long (trust issues) but there have been compassionate, wonderful friends who have raged and cried with me. My feeling the uglier emotions surrounding the abuse and then empathizing with my family’s weaknesses helps me to forgive them.

    There is no ‘quick fix’ to this but you can focus on giving yourself what YOU need – which is ALWAYS to love yourself more and know that you are in charge of how you feel about yourself now and your life. I promise you things will get easier and eventually you will make strides with forgiveness without even trying so hard. We always have to bring the love inward first. I feel that, in my case, I had to go through some of the whacked out trauma I did to become the mazing person I am and always was and to help others come to terms and transform their own trauma. You are a sensitive now because you are conscious and can empathize with people that others cannot understand. You are not alone. Find the right people, books, spiritual practices that lift you up and celebrate your inner strength and shift your self view-do not put up with so-called friends who put you down or allow you to ever think you are ‘lesser than’ because you may not be able to get over the abuse or forgive right now. I so feel you and am sending you sisterly love and light and know that you are an amazing person who had to go through this for whatever reason-but there is a gift there.

  • Dr. Josh Misner

    This is a beautiful piece on the act of granting forgiveness, but what about asking for it? It is more often harder to recognize when we are wrong and let go of pride, so that we may heal those we have wronged than those who have wronged us.

  • rach2013

    Hi Soli, this is what I really feel bad about that I believed him, I ignored my gut feeling. I feel annoyed at myself for lowering my self worth. Its been weeks and months but this feeling continues to haunt me again and again. I just want to go and confront him for lying to me and taking me for granted but I do not understand what is his real side. I feel foolish, miserable and frustrated. I try to make myself feel better but this feeling comes back to me.

  • Tracy Carpenter

    Dee,
    Thank you so much for your lovely words, and for taking the time to write so much. I think I am a sensitive, as you call it. Perhaps no accident that I chose nursing as a career, and then specialized in psychiatry and hospice work for the last 33 years!
    When you said to bring the love inward first, I knew you were right. I have not done enough of this.

  • Tracy Carpenter

    Dr. Misner, for me, the process must began with self forgiveness, a tough process. Recognising my frailities and letting it be OK to acknowledge that, human creature that I am, I am inescapably imperfect. Hard wired to be so, you might say.
    Then, making a sincere and open apology, letting go of the result. It might be thrown back in my face. It might take time before it can be accepted. If so, I have still done what I could. Maybe a written apology would be a good beginning, if feelings run high. Let the other party hear you, think about it, before they must respond. And hopefully, eventually, a face to face meeting, where your face will convey no defensiveness, but real remorse. Sometimes this is what heals for the other person, to see this.

  • Tracy Carpenter

    Judy, thanks for understanding. It is hard to be a human being, isn’t it?

  • Tracy Carpenter

    I would say, just sit with the feeling, hold it, acknowledge it like a child we would comfort.. No need to put it in the driver’s seat and act on it, but you can’t just squash it down and tell it it’s bad. It is not. We need to love all our parts, honor our pain tenderly. Love yourself!

  • Just A. Guy

    Thanks for writing about forgiveness in a way that doesn’t suggest one can just flip a switch and do so, or that forgiveness is some sort of panacea.

  • Lisaesile

    It’s painful when realize we’ve done something unkind, but it’s our pain to work through. Expressing regret and so on might be useful. But this is different from asking for forgiveness – which in my opinion, is about our self.

  • rach2013

    Thanks Tracy :) :)

  • http://www.stopstressandanxiety.com/ Mulyadi Kurnia

    Hi Lisa

    For me, observation my thought and knowing that I am not my thought helps. When the negative thinking from the past strikes me, instead of caving in and feeling depressed, I shall try to observe the thought and trust that the thought will pass. Increasing my level of awareness through regular mindfulness meditation also helps quite a bit.

  • Lor1928

    The weirdest thing happened. I had an unexpected interaction with my ex yesterday. And then I re-read this. And I get it. Dots connect. How come gifts like this happen?

  • jinali

    thank you so much for this post..really liked it and read it at the time i need it the most thank you so much for writting it..:D

  • SunriseGuidedVisual

    Beautiful!

  • Lisaesile

    Hi Lori, thanks for sharing this. It’s such a great example of how we assimilate a new idea – how with a little time a new understanding can take hold.

    (It can often be confusing at first. Our mind doesn’t quite know what to
    make of it. Sometimes we reject things quickly and get angry at the new
    idea.)

    A 27 year relationship ending is a major event. Thinking of you as you adjust to the change and everything that comes with it. X Lisa

  • Dr. Josh Misner

    It all depends on the traits one wishes to develop. If looking to strengthen self-esteem or compassion, then granting forgiveness to others and letting go might be what to pursue. However, if trying to develop stronger relationships, humility, and empathy, then perhaps asking forgiveness from others might be the better option. In my personal and professional opinion as a mindfulness and forgiveness researcher, it is the asking of forgiveness that is most often neglected in interpersonal relationships, and the least developed character trait in today’s society. Why? Because it’s tough as hell to swallow our pride and be the first one to admit fault.

  • Dr. Josh Misner

    Absolutely! Self-forgiveness is the first step toward recognizing fault and taking that critical first step toward healing a relationship. It helps to develop the humility necessary to be the first person to try to right the wrongs. I can recall several scenarios in which I was heavily wronged by someone else, but as we all know from the popular phrase, “It takes two to tango.” In such situations, I recognize the part I played, even if it was reactionary, and I was the first to step up and apologize, asking for forgiveness. That act alone was enough to break down the walls between us and coax the other person into recognizing their fault in the situation and asking for forgiveness as well. Forgiveness isn’t justifying someone else’s actions: it’s letting go of the fact that the past cannot be any different and refusing to allow that pain to dominate our thoughts any longer.

  • Soli

    Rach, my best friend’s name is Rachel also, I also agree with Tracy. Just think about how much you have grown since distancing yourself from him. By going back, it will most likely lead to heartache.

    “We accept the love we think we deserve.” -The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

    You deserve better sweetheart. Find the peace within you, and I promise that you will make it through. If you are feeling like you have to speak with someone who went through the same thing you are going, e-Mail me at stberhan@gmail.com

    Much Love,
    Soli

  • Lisaesile

    I’d like to take a minute to address the comments re how this works when it comes to things like abuse.

    Firstly, it’s not unusual to feel confusion around a new idea.

    Our thoughts and beliefs are so deeply ingrained within us – the very thoughts that keep us stuck feeling unhappy – it can be challenging to hear a new idea. We might “get it”, up to a certain point, like with the example I shared, but not for another situation. Sometimes the new idea makes us feel angry. Or we may not even hear it and misread the lesson altogether.

    When it comes to things like abuse, confusion can arise when we apply the logic we use to make judgments/rules about what is “acceptable behavior,” at a societal level to our personal experience. It can be a trap when it comes to letting go and moving on.

    Decide if you really do want to let go of your resentment. And if you do, be selfish, leave the “rights” and “wrongs” of what happened aside. Consider only your situation. Be gentle with the new idea. Give it some space. X Lisa.

  • Jade Doherty

    Hi Judy (and Dee),
    I’ve never been physically or sexually abused, but did grow up with an abusive alcoholic father, so I can in some way relate to what you’re saying.

    What I’m seeing more and more is that firstly, he was abused too. Both of his parents were abusive alcoholics, and he was following the only patterns that he knew in being abusive to me. No one is abusive from a place of being happy, so whilst I’m not at all condoning their behaviour, they’re coming from a really low place in order to be abusive.

    Secondly, I feel like it’s not so much a question of me forgiving or not forgiving him, rather I have to make some form of peace with the situation in order to live my life in the way I want to live it. I used to feel like forgiving him, or letting go of what he did, meant that it was okay, and he wasn’t being punished for being so horrible. Now I can see that holding onto it only harms me, and that he is suffering because of what he did and where had to be in order to do it.

    I hope that helps. Chances are your Uncle was re-enacting something that happened to him, and whilst it doesn’t make it right, he was probably a victim of something himself.

    And the only reason to forgive or let go is because holding onto it harms you.

    With love,

    Jade

  • Tracy Carpenter

    Dr. Misner, that is the best definition of forgiveness I have ever read.

  • Tracy Carpenter

    Dear Lisa,

    I find I can develop understanding and even compassion toward an abuser, when I can feel that he/she was himself or herself abused/or suffering even as they abuse others. In my case, however, the abuser was simply sociopathic. He enjoyed it, and never showed any signs of suffering or remorse, until the day he died. And I was not his only victim. I can understand his primitive motivation,even feel pity for the lack of humanity in that being, but forgiveness? That’s tough.
    I do want to leave anger and resentment behind. I have done so to a large extent (I am a psychiatric nurse and a counselor). Can you help me with a reframe here?

  • Patty Jackson

    Forgiving myself for my part in the hurt is always the final step for me.

  • http://www.danubelle.com/ laleh

    I am so thankful to found this website, I am going through the exact same thing right now, trying to let go of an energy, a guy that has disappeared on me with no explanation. I have gone through all the things you said above and all I am left with, is just LETTING GO. I know i have to go, I do want to let go, but I want myself sad again every morning to wake up only to feel someone has pushed my reset button, and i am back where I was a month ago. I feel this pile of energy of him in my stomach, and sometimes meditation and concentrating on that chakra helps, but it comes back again. I know that deep down I need that one moment that makes me to let go, and I’ve been trying so hard to find it. But this gave me a good direction, just be with it, I miss him, he was great, we were great together, I am hurt that he left it like this, I am angry at myself as well, but this is how it is, I haven’t even tried to fix it or contact him or anything, I just sit here waiting to see what happens. The self forgiveness as I read in the comments I agree is the hardest, I know I made mistakes but forgiving without knowing that having a reason for it I don’t find it possible, such as, I can forgive myself if I know I behaved that way because I meant to, or I had to learn a lesson. If I knew better I would have done better as Maya Angelo says. If anyone knows a good way to get rid of that unsettling feeling in my 3rd chakra, that I feel like I am trying to attract energy from him, or control him in some way please let me know. Peace is a precious feeling.
    Love

    Danubelle

    http://www.danubelle.com

  • Trina

    Dee thank you so much for sharing this. I have been assaulted as well and have built an entire story about it and let it consume me. I am to the point where moving on is the only way for me. This has helped more than all the sessions of sorts. Thank you. This is probably why I have gone into forensic psychology and work with women who were sold as sex slaves, now in prison, and with children. It helps me to help the women and the children but the pain is so intense at times.
    It is probably because I do not show myself enough love and care. I do the bare minimum at the moment and now realizing that I need to do so much more for myself.

  • Gin

    yes , but what about protecting yourself from being hurt by this person in the same way again.

    consider infidelity.

    are we to just forgive and be peaceful and pretend like it never happened? just to be slapped in the face when it happens AGAIN?.

    and now i’m asked, AGAIN, to forgive. how do you forgive and protect yourself at the same time?

    how do you forgive without becoming a doormat and opening your heart up to be crushed again, and again, and again.

  • Caroline Kirk

    Hi Tracy,

    Firsty how brave, wise and healthy that you are trying to figure out the process of forgiving abuse. I agree with Lisa’s words about forgiveness being essential to our own well being and that everyone is doing their best. Like you, although I was never abused, I always think but what about abusers of children.

    In my avid studies of the mind, spirituality and all that surrounds life and how we live it, for some reason, which we won’t know until we pass back from physical to spiritual form, that such ‘horrendous’ stuff happens for a reason, for our own personal growth, some even say we decide on what we will endure when we arrive here on the physical plane.

    This has helped me enormously in my own forgiveness needs. I try to see them as spiritual beings, doing the best they can and for some reason that man only did what he is capable of, in his own mind. One, those who would never abuse just can’t understand. Trying to would drive us mad.

    Forgiveness is not a decision made once. It is a decision made each and every time that the thing that needs forgiving arises. As Lisa says, in time peace surrounds the issue. Forgiveness is not condoning another’s behaviour. Maybe if you changed the word to acceptance first; acceptance that is has happened.

    By forgiving, you are not saying, this is ok what you did, it is more like saying, “it is not ok that I need to keep feeling anger and resentment (which is pain) over you, I set it free, I set me free”

    What may help you find some understanding, it sure did for me, is to read some books from those who have ‘died’ for a short time. Each say similar things about the bigger picture of life.. it seems those that hurt us most are actually our real spiritual allies, here to push us to grow. Its hard to get your head around that but if you can, you set yourself free.

    I hope you don’t mind me answering you.

    Wishing you all the best Tracey,

    Caroline

  • Caroline Kirk

    Beautiful.. happy that you have come out the other side so well!

  • Caroline Kirk

    yep, at times it is : )

  • Caroline Kirk

    The best article I have read on Forgiveness Lisa. I often quote Allen Carr’s approach also.. we are conditioned to think a certain way, a limiting way for our own happiness and peace of mind but forgiveness is not a flick of a switch, i’ve wrote about this myself, its a practice that we must undertake each time the damaging thoughts arise, again and again until they become lesser, farther apart and less destructive to our own well being. Love your work Lisa : )

  • Cassie

    I’ve never really thought about thinking there’s nothing to forgive. But, it makes sense to me. Focusing on forgiveness means someone did something wrong, whether it’s me or someone else. I don’t want to focus on the wrongs and the bad things people do, I want to be able to focus on the positive and the good in the world. I know without the evil, we wouldn’t really know what good is. I think the hardest part for me is accepting that just because a person does something bad, doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. And even though I’ve made mistakes in my life, I’m still a good person. I believe that I can learn from my mistakes and make my life better. I guess I just get annoyed when other people in my life don’t seem to be able to do the same. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but sometimes I just wish people saw the world the way that I do.

  • Radareau

    I had come to the same conclusion that you had — forgiveness is a natural byproduct of understanding. I asked a good friend whether he agreed with that statement and he did not. He pointed out that that forgiveness can occur when we don’t really understand why someone did what they did. What do you think of that comment? Do you think forgiveness can occur without understanding the motivation of the person who has hurt us?

  • Heena

    Lisa, that resonates with me so much, especially “forgiveness is understanding there’s nothing to forgive.” It all comes through when you start becoming aware of your thoughts as you have mentioned. A very insightful write up indeed.

  • wski

    Thank you, I thought I’d lost my mind when I came to the realization a few months ago that I don’t need to forgive because there’s nothing to forgive, what’s done is done and it’s time to move on. Situations happen and people are going to do what they are compelled to do. Why waste any more time trying to figure out how I’m going to forgive someone or something that I never had any control over in the first place. We need to let ourselves off the hook for something someone else has done, and let them be responsible for their own actions.

  • Patri

    Sounds good up ’til the 3rd belief flipper. Sometimes one’s best is not good enough, especially when it involves abusive behavior. But I get your point.

  • Andromedha

    Dear Lisa.. Thanks for giving me inspiration. once i decided to let my friend off the hook because i didn’t know how to be a best friend that she expected (she used to be my gf, she was cheated on me). now i realize that it’s all because i never forgive her or i never accept she’s taken. Many times we faced difficult situation, our relationship were better when we were still a couple than now, it was getting worse after we broke up. But one thing that we realize that we don’t want to be apart although sometimes we face complicated relationship. what i feel now somehow there’s nothing to do with her, it’s caused by my own thought. She told me that she was a jerk person, and after i read this article i realize that she was just trying no to hurt me when she lied to me, i knew she already did her best. Thank you so much

  • Nancie

    That last sentence really pulled it all together. A very striking message, thank you. I wholly agree. For a long time I’d been searching ‘how to be happy’ or ‘how to be grateful’ or ‘forgiving’, and really my whole mistake was in the search itself. It was already there, and it was just about understanding it, and noticing it, and allowing it. It all comes down to yourself, and nothing external. :)

  • Nancie

    I’d like to point out that forgiving is not the same as giving up. Forgiveness is acceptance (of the fact) and understanding (of the effect). Forgiveness isn’t saying that ‘what you did is okay’, it’s ‘what you did is not okay, but I am accepting you did that and moving on’. And in that sense. depending on the problem, you either move past it by just forgetting about it and continuing the relationship, or you move past it by breaking up with them and continuing with your own life. Either way it’s saying ‘I’m not going to carry that hurt with me’. You don’t need to feel resentment or bitterness to understand that someone is bad for you, or to understand that this isn’t a situation you want to be in. You don’t need resentment to have the motivation to leave, either. In fact, forgiveness helps you to move on, especially in the break-up sense because it is accepting that this person did hurt you and that they are not the faithful person you fell in love with. A lot of people who stick around after infidelity or something like that do so because they don’t want to face what happened. Forgiveness is facing.

    You may feel anger yes, sadness yes, like the writer said it’s not as if she doesn’t get hurt. But carrying that hurt in the form of resentment doesn’t do anything. In fact most times it just blinds people from making progress and moving away from a bad place.

  • linda

    hey guys!!
    i have been gone through two heart breaks…the hurt of my first heart break was not over yet when another happened..i really loved this guy but at the end he left me without even giving me the reason..i ask him why? but he never replies to my texts or calls…i want to move on now….i think forgiving him is the key for the same…but the hurt is too deep that i just can’t do it!!

  • Hey o

    Can you write an article about resenting how good things always happen to those who wrong you and how to deal with that unfairness?

  • Keeper of the Dead

    Accepting that my father was a serial killer that destroyed my siblings, mother, and many other lives was made much easier when I was finally believed by the authorities. Understanding that he used his own children to attract other children that he would rape, torture, and kill–this does not bring me peace. I am 53 years old. My only living family members are mentally ill and incapable of taking in what happened to them. Even I was given antipsychotics when I reported what I’d experienced. This went on until I refused to take anymore, but my siblings could not make lives for themselves. They were unable to survive intact. As the years went by, I kept telling what happened even though I was called a liar, crazy, on and on and on. I was able to withstand my childhood, all of those disbelievers around me, and keep telling, until finally just last year, a therapist believed me. She contacted the police and stayed with me through the telling (as much as possible). Of course, once the culprit of crimes like this has been allowed to die rather than be held accountable, detectives aren’t able to stop anyone so they just want to know as best as possible what happened, to lay the matter to rest for (other) families and for those still considered suspects in these cases.

    Someone wrote in these comments that forgiveness is as simple as accepting what happened and understanding the effects of the actions carried out. I am not nearly the only survivor of multiple atrocities: there are thousands–nay, millions, of us living on this earth right now. Were it not for well-meaning professionals that have long covered up the stories of adult-child witnesses of crimes with denial, disbelief, psychotropics, and in many cases, the help of governments, I believe a deeper understanding about surviving evil and coming out intact would stand a chance to see the light of day.

    Understanding and acceptance are not the same things as forgiveness. Knowing what happened, accepting it, while being dismissed and left alone as my family was destroyed and my dad kept going at will, does not allow me freedom of any sort. On the contrary: what I believe about forgiveness is that those of us pushed into the margins of our society–the foster kids nobody wants, the so-called mentally ill, and many thousands of functioning but depressed adults are in dire need of acceptance and understanding so that we might find comfort in our fellow human beings again rather than having to withstand a life of isolation simply for telling a truth that no one around us will accept.

    My healing began when I was believed by one person. Then it was two. Then three. Now, the disbelievers are slack-jawed. I am one woman, but I am now believed. No longer alone, I am able to finally feel and be a member of the community that many take for granted. Here’s the bottom line–I am incapable of forgiving and forgetting what I saw, and I shouldn’t have to try so that those around me can feel safe in the world. I am far from the only one. The next time you hear someone tell a story that makes you blanch, refuse to shut it down. Be courageous, listen, and if you must, forgive the teller for having such a story to tell, but whatever you do, don’t leave them alone to rot in the back ward of a hospital or leave them sitting in a child psych ward for the unwanted or let them walk away believing that you just don’t care. Not only will you give them a chance at life, but you will change your own life for the better, and perhaps even stop a killing.

  • Guest

    Thank you for sharing an insightful article. You are right in that forgiving starts within ourselves. Forgiveness is a choice and cannot be forced. It is a process of healing which takes time and effort. We can truly forgive and let go when we acknowledge our true feelings.

  • Eri Cad

    Loved that line, By forgiving, you are not saying, this is ok what you did, it is more like saying, “it is not ok that I need to keep feeling anger and resentment (which is pain) over you, I set it free, I set me free”. I came to a sense of freedom over my dad who raised me leaving when my therapist merely suggested maybe sometimes it was ok not to forgive. In my case I had been feeling all this pressure to forgive that i didn’t even feel I knew what forgiveness was anymore. When she suggested it was ok to not forgive I felt it made my feelings ok, validated and than I was able to move on to compassion for him.