Forgiveness can be a struggle of finding one’s way out of resentment and toward greater emotional health. At times, that struggle can be a challenge which discourages you from continuing on the forgiveness path toward healing. When this happens, I have 5 ideas for you to consider.
First, guard who you are. When we struggle and do not easily succeed, we can grow discouraged and take that out on ourselves. Please resist self-talk that diminishes who you are. Instead, just as you try to see the built-in worth of the one who hurt you as you forgive, strive to see this same worth in yourself: “I have been hurt by another. I will continue to realize that I am a person of great worth and this will not be taken away from me” (Enright, 2015).
Second, take the long perspective. Try to see beyond today. Try to see one year from now. Your reactions today will be very different in a year. As you work on the situation and do so with patience and wisdom, there will be improvements. This does not mean, for example, that a desired relationship will be better, but it does mean that you will be adjusting and making good choices that are healthy for you as you stay on course for improvement: “When I take a long perspective on my troubles I see that I will be at a different point in my life one year from now.”
Third, be gentle with yourself. Forgiving others is hard because they can cause you great inner pain. Try to avoid adding even more pain by demanding too much of yourself and even subtly condemning yourself for not meeting your own expectations as you move through the healing process. You have had enough pain and so please try to quiet inside when it comes to too many demands on yourself.
Fourth, who will support you as you mend your broken heart? Try to identify one person who will stand with you in your pain and walk this path of healing with you. Suffering with others creates a wonderful bond. Try to be aware of this as you seek the right person for the journey.
Fifth, try to exercise both humility and courage. “Humility says, ‘I am not worse or better as a person than anyone else.’ Humility does not demand. It does not threaten. Humility takes its turn and allows others to take their turn” (Enright, 2015). Your struggle to forgive does not make you an inferior person. The one who hurt you has weaknesses and defects and yet this does not make this person inferior either. Both of you are persons. The combination of humility and courage helps you to avoid excessive self-criticism and excessive criticism of others (Enright, 2015).
In the long run, the more you practice the challenging work of forgiveness, the more you will find that this forgiveness is a familiar friend, one that is there to assist in your healing, despite times of questioning and struggle. The process itself of forgiving is not the endpoint of forgiving. The end of a forgiveness journey is when you finally are seeing the others’ humanity and are responding with compassion to these persons’ weaknesses and responding with respect for their personhood. The end of the forgiveness journey so often is filled with a greater lightness, a greater healing.
Enright, R.D. (2015). 8 keys to forgiveness. New York: Norton.