On any given day, you may stumble upon inspirational quotes that outline the power of letting go and the healing that comes with forgiveness. The message is valid: forgiveness and letting go have powerful results for all who are able to do both successfully.
For years I wanted to be able to just magically forgive others. This included those who hadn’t apologized; I found that I just couldn’t get there without an apology. I was willing to try, but the next question was HOW? I wanted a step-by-step guide teaching me how to forgive someone who 1) wronged me and 2) didn’t apologize. I wanted to let go of my anger, say you’re forgiven and move on. But wanting to do it wasn’t the same as getting it done. I was stuck. What’s next? I wondered, Somebody, tell me how to do it so that I can indeed get it done.
My desire to forgive was a direct result of the resentment and anger I was holding on to. I felt crappy, tense and full of hate. I didn’t want to feel that anymore. It didn’t matter who had wronged me. The built-up resentment bled into every area of my life and I was becoming a miserable person. My inability to forgive was only hurting me. So, I set out on a quest to learn how to forgive someone who didn’t say sorry and let go of the resentment that I had clung to so tightly for most of my life.
That quest led to a step-by-step guide that I now follow when I am harboring resentment. If ever I hear myself say, or even think, the words their fault, how could they, I am so mad at, I know it’s time for me to do some work in the forgiveness department.
Here is my guide to forgiving and letting go:
1. Take an Honest Inventory about What Happened — Take a minute to reflect on the facts about whatever happened. No speculation, no emotion, no interpretation of what happened. Simply acknowledge the facts. I suggest writing them down and re-reading them. Ask yourself if everything you have written is an undebatable fact. When you have gathered only the most important facts of the situation causing you anger and resentment, move on to Step 2.
2. Be Selfless — As you examine the facts of your situation, take a minute to be 100-percent selfless. Think about the reasons that may have caused this person to take the action they took. Give the other party every possible benefit of the doubt. Assume nothing. For this step of the process only, if you have to jump to conclusions, assume the best-case explanation for the wrongdoings. Think of what was going on in their life at the time of the wrongdoing. Were they under unusual stress or were they dealing with some crappy situation? Did you perhaps do anything that led to their wrongdoing? Did you do anything wrong that may have been a part of the ultimate bad behavior? Write these down. While you are doing this step, try to view it all as an objective outsider. Try to set your emotion aside and take this on as an exercise of what if? This is merely an exploration: play the devil’s advocate.
3. Be Selfish — Write a list of pros and cons addressing how holding on to this anger will affect you going forward. How will it help you? How will it hurt? Be Honest. This list is for your eyes only; don’t lie. Are you holding onto this anger to punish someone? Are you trying to teach someone a lesson? Is it making you feel better or worse to stay angry? Will your life be better or worse with this person temporarily not in it? This is the step where you need to check what is the best outcome for you. Honesty is key to step number 3.
4. Check Yourself — If after the above steps you feel that your anger is indeed justified, and you are not quite ready to forgive and let go, then there is something more you need to do.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what that is. This is the step where you need to be true to yourself. Decide if your anger needs to be addressed. If you can’t forgive, expressing your feelings is the gateway to getting to that place of forgiveness. The key, however, is to do this in a way that is mature, calm and free from intense emotions. When someone wrongs you, it is helpful to tell them how it made you feel, the direct effect it had on you, and how it could have been handled better.
This is also the prime time to acknowledge any part you have played in the wrongdoing. The key is to do this when you are calm and in a way that is 100-percent true to you. When you approach someone who has hurt you in an honest, loving and blame-free way, forgiveness is right around the corner. Do not rush this step. Give yourself all the time you need to prepare for this difficult task.
5. Prioritize — Re-read your notes, remember all of the facts, review the pros and cons, and prioritize. What is most important in your life? If you were to die tomorrow, would this grudge have been worth holding on to? Would you have spent your final days alive without an important person in your life because they made a mistake? If so, would you stand by your decision to hold on to this anger? Anger is powerful. Some things are more easily forgiven than others. Forgiveness can take time, but prioritizing your values and goals may help you to not waste time. Life is short.
The truth is, the power to overcome your anger and resentment is indeed within you. You can choose to hold a grudge or you can choose to forgive. It can take some time to fully forgive and let go, but it’s worth a shot!
Or…it can take some time to fully forgive and let go, but, based on my own experience, I can say that it’s totally worth the peace and growth that comes from trying, practicing, and accomplishing this difficult action.