Kimberly Russell M.A., M.S.Ed

How to Be a Grown-Up

How to Forgive Someone You Hate

Forgiveness is a (long, crappy, doable) process.

Posted Mar 15, 2014

"We punish other people for the same mistake a thousand times. Every time it comes in your memory, you judge them again and punish them again." —Miguel Angel Ruiz

Have you ever hated someone so much you just can't get them out of your head?

It's kind of like when the car radio plays a terrible song while on your way to the grocery, and you find yourself humming that terrible song as you walk past shelves of cheese… and again when you're at home putting your cheese away.

That's what unforgiveness is—the habit of feeling tortured even when your torturer is long gone.

I confess to having a terrible song stuck in my head. For the past few years, I've been replaying a certain someone's hurtful words and actions in my mind. I want to forgive and finally move on, but, holy hell, it ain't easy.

Forgiveness feels impossible. It's like the Rubik's Cube of the Soul. But it's worth the effort because forgiveness is freedom.

But make no mistake: Forgiveness is not your enemy's freedom from accountability, but your own freedom from torture. Anger is time-consuming and exhausting, and you usually don't realize this until after you're finished being angry.

So lately, I've been trying out various techniques for releasing my twisted need to punish this person over and over again in my imagination. I've found these next two tactics to be much more helpful:

  • Reflect on what this person's crime took away from you on a broad level. How can you get it back independently from this person?
  • Reflect on the important lessons you learned from the ugly situation you were in. Take a moment every day to feel grateful for these lessons.

I guess it boils down to what good old Socrates said:

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."

The only time I don't obsess over the crimes of my unnamed "enemy" is when I'm filling my days with meaningful activities, satisfying work, and important people—when I'm building my present and future, not fighting memories of the past.

But the most important thing I need to share with you is this: Commit to traveling in the direction of forgiveness instead of judging yourself for not already being there. As long as you genuinely want to have your peace of mind back (rather than get revenge), you're halfway there.

I'll end with what one random commenter had to say about this topic:

"A friend of mine once remarked that forgiveness … is a journey rather than a destination. We make the choice to forgive, but then we have to keep choosing it, over and over. Lingering anger or sorrow doesn't mean you're not in the process of forgiveness; they just highlight that it is, indeed, a process."


Your turn: What has your journey toward forgiveness been like?

Come pick up your free copy of this writer's manifesto, From Crisis to Courage: The Nuts & Bolts of Growing Your Nuts After a Life-Changing Trauma.

© Kimberly Eclipse