Although forgiveness brings many benefits, particularly to the “forgiver,” to forgive is not always easy. In fact, many people who would like to let go of anger and forgive are stumped with the question of how to forgive. While everyone may have a unique perspective on how to forgive, the following strategies have been proven effective for many people.
When trying to decide how to forgive someone, it may or may not help to express your feelings to the other person. If the relationship is important to you and you would like to maintain it, it may be very useful for you to tell the other person—in non-threatening language—how their actions affected you. If the person is no longer in your life, or if you have reason to believe that things will get much worse if you address the situation directly, you may want to just write a letter and tear it up (or burn it) and move on. People don’t need to know that you’ve forgiven them; forgiveness is more for you than for the other person.
Look for the positive
Journaling about a situation where you were hurt or wronged can help you process what happened and move on; however, the way you write about it and what you choose to focus on can make all the difference in how easy it becomes to forgive. Research shows that journaling about the benefits you’ve received from a negative situation can actually help you to forgive and move on more easily. So pick up a pen and start journaling about the silver lining next time you find someone raining on your parade.
While you don’t have to agree with what the other person did to you, when working on how to forgive, it often helps to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Research has shown that empathy, particularly with men, is associated with forgiveness, and can make the process easier. Instead of seeing them as “the enemy,” try to understand the factors that they were dealing with.
Sometimes it can be difficult to forget about the past and forgive, particularly if the offending acts were traumatic. If you’re still having difficulty knowing how to forgive someone who’s wronged you in a significant way, you may have better success working with a therapist who can help you work through your feelings on a deeper level and personally support you through the process.