Forgiving someone who has transgressed against you is a challenging, messy beast. Many of us struggle with it for years, as we work through issues from our childhood. The last thing you want to read about are tips to forgive someone who betrayed you.
Forgiving the adults in our lives for their severe failures seems tantamount to letting people off the hook for the damage and hurt they caused us that has lasted many years into our adulthood.
Many of us keep thinking, “How can I let go of this? Why do people tell me to move on? How can I ever forgive X, Y, or Z?” Adulting is challenging, and life hits hard many many times. Here are a few tips to forgive as you navigate this complex process.
Understand What Forgiveness Is, and Is Not
I hope I can help others in a similar situation when I write that my breakthrough in forgiveness came the moment I realized forgiveness and absolution are not the same things.
Absolution means I let someone off the hook, and I let go of my anger, resentment, and other upset feelings towards them for their actions.
Forgiveness only meant that I had to let go of my negative feelings. It didn’t mean I had to let them off the hook.
A further moment of revelation came about a year ago when a friend sent me an article on forgiveness aimed at Christian women. I did not consider myself a Christian, then, so I was reluctant to read a Christian woman’s tips to forgive. I am now so glad I did.
Some Simple Tips to Forgive When You Cannot Let Go
I understood that religious wisdom is generally universal, so I read the article. The all-embracing message resonated with me, and I hope it resonates with you. Her tips to forgive made it clear that we can let go of people who have betrayed us.
If a person has betrayed you and shown a disregard for the truth or for your reputation, you are not obligated to trust them again, even if they ask for your forgiveness (C. Mahaney, 2016).
What a revelation. I am not obliged to trust someone again.
And then I read this gem.
There is confusion between forgiveness and restoration….To explain: If a friend seriously betrays me, I am mandated as a Christian to forgive him if he asks for it. But I think I would be foolish to restore him to a position of trust. I often drew the analogy with babysitting—if someone babysat my kids but neglected them, I should forgive them if they repent; but it would be delinquent to let them babysit again. (C. Mahaney, 2016).
In some cases, it would be irresponsible to trust someone again.
An entirely new world of freedom from anger, resentment, and upset had just opened up to me. I must forgive because God requires it of me, but I do not have to trust again…unless I want to trust and try again.
For people who grew up going to church, synagogue, temple or a mosque, these concepts may seem simple and obvious. I turned my back on the Christian church years ago, and I have only recently come around and regained my faith. These simple tips to forgive opened up an entirely new perspective for me, emotionally and spiritually.
The Importance of Trust and Surrendering to What Happened
Trust, once destroyed, is hard to rebuild. I believed in God. I wasn’t so keen on His anointed representatives. They were a bit too human for me. However human they may be, though, there is wisdom in the teachings.
Recently, I have struggled to let go of my anger and resentment towards someone whose ego and sense of entitlement started a negative domino effect through every level of my life that has only recently stopped creating havoc.
As I have struggled to clean up the damage and accept what happened, I found myself again struggling To Let Go and Accept What Happened when life hits hard.
I have been angry, upset, and resentful, in spite of my best efforts to move on and let go of the past. There have been far too many moments of self-pity. I have experienced these things in the full understanding that I cannot change the past.
It has been hard to let go. I had a lot of losses, and I have been very, very hurt. It has taken a while to work through the process of healing, including reminding myself that everybody has problems and to get over myself. 😜😜😜
Since I wanted to heal and kick myself out of this, I went online and began re-reading articles. Angel Chernoff has a great article called, “10 Reasons to Forgive the Person You Hate the Most“.
Lifehack (of course) has a 4 step program for REALLY letting go of resentment. Tiny Buddha offers “30 Tips to Forgive Someone When It Is Hard“. The wonderful Leo Babauta offers his advice on “How to Let Go and Forgive“.
These authors’ wonderful tips to forgive helped me calm down and remind myself the past is the past, by breathing through it.
However, as I read the comments on Angel Chernoff’s post, I realized, people did not understand that they do not have to restore someone to a position of trust. They only have to let go of their upset.
8 Tips to Forgive and Move On When Life Hits Hard
I thought it was important to discuss the question of restoration on this blog. I realize many of you are not Christians, but please be open to the universal message here. Especially if you wish for inner peace when life hits hard.
- The first step to forgiving yourself and others is understanding what it is…and is not. You must give yourself permission to be a survivor and not a victim.
You have to be willing to let it go, and no longer wrap yourself in that victim blanket, no matter how “right” you are to do so. Engage in self-care, and give yourself permission to forgive and in some cases, but not all, to forget.
- You have to allow yourself to move on with your life, no matter how much the tentacles of the damage someone did to you extend to the present. You must take control of your life from this moment forward.
For your own sake, you must let go of your bitterness, and your upset over the “should have been”. It didn’t happen that way. Life isn’t fair. Let go, and move on. (I didn’t say it was easy!)
- Know that if you forgive and move on, you are not letting your offender off the hook. You are not absolving them. You are simply making the choice not to give them power over you in the present time.
If you have been abused, cheated on, and other longer-term and very real issues where you are still suffering, this can be so hard it feels like you are being punished a second time.
Do it, anyway. (Again, no one said this is easy.)
- You do not have to be friendly to the person or re-establish any kind of a relationship with them. You do not have to restore the person to a position of trust unless you want to do so and it is safe to do so.
If it is someone you have to see on a regular basis because of family, friend, or work ties, then be polite but distant. Do not let yourself be drawn into their orbit again. Do not establish a relationship with them again, and do not feel guilted into doing so.
While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us (R. Sweet, 2001).
- The next step is to realize that you do not have to take revenge or do anything once you have forgiven. It is simple enough to leave it to God.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 NIV)
- If that is not enough for you, then take a more self-serving view. Do it for yourself. Let yourself be happy and healthy in mind, body, and soul.
Living well is the best revenge. –George Herbert
- Be honest with yourself and fess up if you contributed to the situation in any way. If you did, hold yourself responsible for your part and only your part, then forgive yourself.
- Become a detourist.
detour – \ˈdē-ˌtu̇r – noun
The act of going or traveling to a place along a way that is different from the usual or planned way.
A detour is a curve in the road of life, a bump in a path, a big sign in the middle of your trip that says, “sorry, you have to go THAT way.”
Nobody expects a detour to happen, in life. It’s what happens when we think we have things planned and all figured out…and then we’re thrown a curveball.
In other words, you cannot change the past. No matter what happened, and I know very dark and ugly things can happen to you, find a way to be happy in the now.
Take Control and Find the Positive, No Matter How Hard
Guestblogger Amy O. is a great source of inspiration. She’s hit many a detour, landed on her feet, and laughed at it all.
A Detourist looks for the upside of obstacles. A detourist follows that twisted path because they’re curious to see where it could lead.
A detourist travels along detours – simple enough. But in addition, a detourist embraces those unexpected routes as opportunities for growth, change, and self-fulfillment. I am living proof that a detour can lead to unexpected blessings.
Resilience takes work – especially when nothing seems to go our way and life hits hard. The good part is that everyone has had an unexpected detour one time or another, and the best teachers are the stories we hear (Oestreicher, 2016).
Be like Amy. Somehow, some way, learn to #loveyourdetour when life hits hard.
Most of all, rewrite your story when life hits hard.
Let go of your victim mentality, shift gears, and write your own story. Empower yourself, and remind yourself of the choices you made that helped you overcome the past.
When life throws lemons at you so hard you have bruises and cuts, forget about making lemonade. Pick up every one of those lemons and go make yourself a lemon meringue pie from scratch when life hits hard. Devour every wonderful piece of it, because you are fabulous that way.
Let yourself be happy. You deserve it. Forgive when life hits hard.