The idea of forgiveness isn’t a new concept, but it is something that nearly everyone struggles with at some point in their lives. Most of us have been hurt in some significant, maybe awful way, and in turn we have probably hurt someone just as badly. It can be incredibly difficult to forgive those who have wronged us, or even forgive ourselves for the times we have hurt others.
Thomas G. Plante, a professor of psychology and blog writer for Psychology Today, compiled a list of seven tips that can help us get closer to reaching forgiveness. Of course, understanding that the act of forgiving is an important thing to achieve doesn’t make it any easier. Professor Plante just hopes that his seven principles can help everyone along the way. We are not affiliated with Professor Plante in anyway, but just wanted to spread his message and ideas to you.
1. Forgiveness does not equal forgetting- Anyone who has experienced abuse or trauma will know that forgetting those cruelties just isn’t possible, but forgetting and forgiving are not the same thing. Many people believe that to forgive someone is to forget the way they hurt you, but that isn’t the case. You can forgive someone and still remember what they did to you.
2. You aren’t minimizing your experience- Just because you forgive someone for the trauma they caused you does not mean you are telling them what they did was okay. That’s the furthest thing from what you are doing. You are still able to accept that the trauma was real and awful, yet forgive the one who caused it.
3. You aren’t weak- Many people look at forgiveness as a sign of “giving up,” or admitting that they are weak. Forgiving someone that wronged you does not mean you are weak, it actually makes you quite strong.
4. The other person doesn’t have to apologize- While it would be nice if the person who hurt you was able to accept that and apologize, that isn’t always the case. Most of the time, a person who caused you pain won’t believe that they did anything wrong. That’s completely okay though, because you forgive them for yourself, not to let them off the hook.
5. It’s a process- “Forgiveness isn’t an all-or-none, black-or-white kind of thing. It is a process,” says Professor Plante. You might not ever be able to completely forgive someone who hurt you, but you may be able to get just a little bit closer. Forgiving someone just a little bit can still be extremely beneficial to you.
6. Forgiveness is for YOU- Holding onto anger is extremely toxic for you, and can turn you into a bitter and resentful person. This means that when you choose to forgive someone, you are doing it for you, not for them. Forgiving someone isn’t “doing them a favor,” but instead doing yourself a favor.
7. Forgiveness is letting go of anger- Professor Plante has “treated many people who have been terribly victimized and traumatized by physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse.” There are times that this abuse comes from those who are supposed to be the most loving, like parents, siblings, and spouses. It is hard work to let go of that anger, but Professor Plante has observed that those who do can cope better in day-to-day life. At the end of the day, forgiveness is about letting go of anger, but not forgetting what caused it.