Path to Forgiveness

photo shows a dandelion gone to seed

Forgiveness is liberating and empowering.

~ Unknown

Why is it so easy to feel anger and resentment towards someone who hurt you?

Whether we sustain a small hurt or a big betrayal, we often hold on to those negative feelings, letting them fester and grow. But as the quote above states, “forgiveness is liberating and empowering”.

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately (Forgive Freely is my intention for this month).
Sue Monk Kidd said in an interview that forgiveness is “an evolution of the heart” I feel her sentiment is true, but the process of forgiving can be distressful.

We’ve all heard about people who have offered forgiveness to those who have caused them devastating harm. The tragic story of Katy Hutchison and Ryan Aldridge is one example of an evolution of the heart that impacted me deeply.

Katy Hutchison’s husband was senselessly murdered for trying to stop a neighbourhood house party that had gotten out of control. Ryan Aldridge was arrested for the crime four years after the murder.

Even though she lost her husband and was left with two young children, Hutchison chose to forgive Ryan. As a result, both of their lives were transformed in ways neither of them expected.

Hutchison and Aldridge’s story helped me to understand what it means to truly forgive someone.
It made me realize that one of the most healing acts you can do is offer forgiveness to others or yourself.
Read their thoughts on forgiveness.

Photo by Engin Akyur

Letting go of a hurt caused by a friend or loved one can help free you from anger and sadness.
Forgiveness can help mend a friendship and restore your confidence and peace of mind.
Reflecting on your hurt feelings can help you gain insights into your heart and help you release any resentment and bitterness.

But letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Holding on to resentment is a self-defence mechanism that protects us from further anguish.
We imagine that offering forgiveness will mean we won’t be understood or valued. We hang on to our hurt in fear leaving ourselves open to more disappointment and pain.

I know all too well that clinging to bitterness and hurt leads to being consumed by resentment.
I have first-hand experience allowing my anger to keep me feeling antagonistic and cold toward a friend who hurt me. I couldn’t move past my wounded heart; I was letting a friendship slip away. I felt miserable.

This quote by Tyler Perry popped up in my social media feed: “It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.”

These words helped me realize that I would be unable to heal unless I let go and found a way to forgive.
The first step I took on the path to forgiveness — was to honour the pain. Acknowledging my pain allowed me to validate those emotions. Yes, I was hurt, yes, I was angry, and yes, I felt betrayed. I had to remind myself that it was okay to have those feelings.

Image shows two daisies in a grassy field
Image by Petra from Pixabay

I tried to look at the incident with detachment — recognize that the hurt was real, but also realize that I did not need to hold on to that pain. I began to think about what I wanted to do about this dilemma. Did I want to abandon a long-standing friendship? Were my reactions appropriate and helpful? Did I read the situation correctly? Did I do anything to contribute to the offence? Is there anything I need to apologize for?

Taking the time to reflect on these questions enabled me to develop a new perspective. I realized that I had to stop thinking about how much I hurt and, instead, have an open and frank discussion with my friend.

At first, that conversation was difficult. It was a good thing that some time had passed. I was able to remain calm while relating my feelings. We both shared our emotions and insights and listened to each other.

In the end, I felt heard, valued and at peace. I believe my friend did as well. I am grateful to have had an honest and heartfelt discussion where we both agreed our friendship was important enough to continue. I believe that our relationship weathered the storm,

Photo by Anna Shivets

There isn’t a magic formula to help you arrive at forgiveness.

Like the grieving process, the path to forgiveness has stages to go through before you can be open to forgiving someone who has wronged you.

Choosing to forgive isn’t easy. It requires thought, compassion, and self-reflection.

If you can reach the place where you can offer forgiveness, you will find that you can let go of the pain, anger and resentment. The act of forgiveness frees you from those negative emotions and can save relationships. Forgiving can help you become a stronger person.

Practicing forgiveness has been shown to have physical health benefits, too. It can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, boost the immune system, reduce anxiety, depression and stress and promotes a sense of well-being.

Photo by Boonáchoat from Getty Images Pro

I learned three important things through offering forgiveness.

Forgiveness is life-changing.
Once I chose to forgive, I felt a weight lift from my heart. The knot in my chest untangled and enabled me to let go of painful memories.
Forgiving doesn’t mean condoning bad behaviour.
Choosing to forgive means I accept what happened and make peace with it.
It does not mean I make excuses for bad behaviour.
Forgiving made me stronger.
I control my thoughts, feelings, and actions and shift my mindset. Changing my narrative from a victim mentality to empowerment enabled my confidence and self-worth to grow.

Want some tips to help you navigate the road to forgiveness? Try these eight tips from Stanford Magazine.

Have you forgiven someone for an act that hurt or offended you? Tell us about it in the comments!