How To Fully Forgive And Move On

Forgiveness is not weakness. Rather, it is a strength that cannot be matched.
fully forgive and move on
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We’ve all been there. No one is immune. It’s like the world’s cruel initiation joke to being human...getting hurt. I don’t mean like you stubbed your toe and hurt yourself kind of hurt. I mean the kind of hurt that penetrates every fiber of your being. The emotion is so raw and ugly that many hate facing it; emotional walls, masked anger, dependence on alcohol, drugs, or any other form of distraction is often the quick solution to avoid the searing pain of hurt feelings.

Sometimes the hurt comes from those closest to us. Or from a complete stranger. Sometimes it’s unintentional. Other times not so much. Whatever the reason for the hurt feelings, it is necessary to know how to face the pain, process the emotions, and grow from the experience. The key to releasing the shackles of emotional turmoil is through one word: forgiveness.

Unforgiveness Can be Detrimental to Your Health

The path to full forgiveness can be cumbersome, but it's one that is worth traveling down. Hurt feelings are like the Jekyll and Hyde of emotions; if left to fester, emotions can morph into dark gnawing forces known as resentment, anger, jealousy, or bitterness. These toxic emotions can stifle any positive emotion of the person and eventually wreak havoc on the physical body. On the flip side, if feelings are processed correctly, it leads to freedom, strength, and inner growth.

Johns Hopkins Medicine found that the act of forgiveness can reduce the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels and sleep; and reduce pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. The consequences to a forgiving spirit lead to less emotional stress, anxiety, anger, and hostility; whereas, those who hang on to grudges are more likely to experience severe depression and post-traumatic stress.

Forgiveness is a misunderstood action. Many believe forgiving someone means weakness, enabling, stifling emotions, or forgetting what happened. Having practiced the various ways to avoid my feelings, I really struggled with these beliefs because that’s exactly how I felt. It felt as though the offender had a free pass to walk away without any real consequence for their actions. After some time of fully processing the hurt feelings, I realized that true forgiveness is freedom. Freedom from negative emotions and an ability to fully love.

Here is how you can begin the journey to full forgiveness and move on:

1. Find a Healthy Outlet

Finding a healthy physical outlet is essential to releasing the negative energy surging from within. Boxing, spinning, or running are a few considerations to keep in mind when figuring out what physical activity works best for you.

Writing candidly about the situation and your emotions is another good way to release the pent-up energy. This is a safe space to get raw and let loose. Don't hold anything back. Once you have written your heart out…burn it. Tear it to pieces. Bury it. However you want to dispose of it, just dispose of it. DO NOT. I repeat. DO NOT send it to the person. This is simply a symbolic gesture to emotionally purge yourself of the situation. You have released your hurt and you have begun to release the offender.

2. Develop Compassion for the Person

Part of forgiveness is trying to see the person in a different light. As difficult as it may be in some circumstances, finding compassion for the individual is a necessary step in forgiving. You may have heard this saying: Hurt people hurt people. It couldn't be more true. In order to develop benevolence for the person, begin by asking these two questions: What is going on in the life that led them to this behavior? What kind of childhood did they have? The question about childhood may seem peculiar, but there is no denying that childhood shapes who we are. Understanding the emotional climate to which the individual was exposed during childhood (alcoholism, passive-aggressiveness, withdrawing, etc.) can give you insight and understanding as to why the person did what they did.

Let’s face it, we’re all broken inside (some more so than others). In order for one to move to a place of forgiveness, it needs to be recognized that the individual is hurt inside and does not know how to properly process their emotions, and thus resorts to hurtful behavior. This is not giving the person a pass and making an excuse for their bad behavior; rather, it is an understanding from you that the offender is emotionally stunted and has no other tools to utilize other than to knowingly or unknowingly hurt those around them.

3. Take Responsibility for Your Contribution

This can be an unpleasant part of the forgiveness journey, so bear with me here...take a step back and see what you contributed to the problem. I know, I know. It can be hard to confess. But it’s a necessary part of healing. There are some circumstances where a person didn’t contribute at all to the situation (i.e., racism, child abuse, etc.); This step is more so referring to relationship conflicts when it comes to taking responsibility. Look at it this way: You are a judge in a courtroom trial. As a judge, you have to impartially consider both arguments. In doing so, it is often found that both parties bear some guilt. One more so than the other. But that’s not my point. My point is that it needs to be recognized that both people contributed to the fallout and both need to take responsibility. So ask yourself, what was my contribution? How did my words or actions affect the other person?

This may take some time and that’s OK. Forgiveness is a process. I will, however, challenge you to continue searching if your answer is, "I loved too much". If you find yourself coming back to this statement, try asking, "How did my loving too much affect the other person?"

4. Calmly Approach the One Who Hurt You

Once you feel neutral (you feel a sense of calm) about the situation, now is the time, if you so desire, to approach the person. In the case where approaching the person is not a viable option (i.e. death, too dangerous, etc.), writing a letter(not your candid one) can be a solution. However, it is not necessary, especially if you found the candid letter writing to be cathartic. Forgiveness can be a silent auction.

In the instance where you want to maintain a relationship and decide to speak face to face with the person, it is important to approach the situation in a calm and non-threatening way. Psychology Today's 10 Tips for Solving Relationship Conflicts article has some helpful tips on how to handle conflicts in a healthy and effective manner. The article is aimed towards couples, but you can also apply these tips with other relationships (i.e., work, friends, etc.). Maybe just not as intimately.

Here are the steps to calmly approach the person who hurt you:

  • Be direct about what's on your mind

Say clearly and concisely what hurt you, why, and how you would like to be treated.

  • Talk about your feelings without blaming them

Making statements that directly assault the person and their character is a sure-fire way to put them on the defensive and possibly shut down. This is why it is important to approach the person when you are calm and clear-headed. Be sure to use "I statements" which are statements that focus on how you feel without blaming your partner. For example, "I get really irritated when you say I am being sensitive. It makes me feel like my feelings don't matter to you."

  • Never say never (or "always")

Don't make generalizations about the person. Statements like "You're always looking at your cell phone" are likely to make the person defensive. Starting another argument is not the goal.

  • Pick your battles one at a time

Stick to one issue at a time. It can be really tempting to address other issues, but dragging multiple topics into one discussion becomes overwhelming and doesn't resolve any of the issues.

  • Really listen to the other person

Don't interrupt the other person or assume to know what they are thinking. Think of the saying: "Treat others the way you want to be treated". You can show the person you are actively listening to by paraphrasing what they say in your own words. This can prevent misunderstandings before they start.

  • Take a different perspective

Try to understand where the person is coming from (sound familiar? see #2). Individuals who take on the perspective of the other person is less likely to become angry during a conflict discussion.

  • Do not show contempt for the other person

Contemptuous remarks or actions can be taken as belittling, disrespectful, or an implication of disgust for the person. Be conscious of any of these actions: eye-rolling, smirking, sarcasm, or name-calling.

  • Don't get overwhelmed with negativity and take a time-out when needed

Responding to bad behavior with even more bad behavior is counterproductive to the mission of reconciliation. It takes a lot of strength to stand there, take the verbal punches, and not reciprocate. If the discussion or negativity becomes too overwhelming, take time out from the argument. Step into another room and taking a few deep calming breaths before finishing up the conversation.

5. Journal About Your Experience

Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind. - Natalie Goldberg

One of the most effective ways to process emotions and experiences is through journaling. According to research, journaling improves mood, provides clarity for one’s mind, and helps to release stress and anxiety. Think of journaling as self-therapy; a sort of compositional salve for the soul. Write about your experiences through and through. But rather than focusing on the negative emotions of an event, try centering on what good has come from it.

By turning your perspective to the benefits gained from a negative situation, you are helping yourself to forgive and move on more easily. So ask yourself, What life lesson was learned? How has this grown me as an individual? What can I improve on?

6. Have You Completely Forgiven?

When you feel as though you have moved on from the situation, here are some questions to consider in order to gauge if you have fully forgiven:

  • Do I have any emotions tied to the event?
  • When the person’s name comes up, do I have a negative reaction?
  • Do I still think about the event?
  • When I am angry, do I bring up or think about the wrong that has been done to me in the past?

If you have said yes to any of these, your forgiveness is still a work in progress. And that's okay. Remember, this is a process and there is no timeline. This is your journey and your process; forgiveness can take days, months, or even years.

Forgiving is a spiritual experience that involves the mind, body, and soul. Rest assured you are on the right path if you are actively working toward forgiveness and growing emotionally stronger with each passing day. May peace and happiness be with you.

Avid researcher, reader, and aspiring writer. I hope to compose meaningful and inspirational content for readers.

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