Before we commence, a definition of forgiveness is in order. To forgive simple means “to let go” of some hurt that someone has caused you, rather than hold on to it. Forgiveness, though, doesn’t mean pretending something never happened; but rather, pardoning an error even though you have a right to hold on to it.
But there are times when we don’t feel like forgiving. You have been hurt pretty badly, and want to stay mad at the person rather than move forward, but what if you are not ready emotionally to forgive? That can happen sometimes, but when you really don’t want to forgive, what then?
Holding on to negative emotions like hurt and anger keep you locked in place, often re-living the bad thing that happened. Rather than moving forward through the hurt, you either avoid it completely (delaying the pain), or stay locked with the negative event that caused you the hurt in the first instance.
The only way to free yourself from these hurt feelings is to forgive. Here are some things to consider.
1. Make the Choice First and Trust That the Feelings of Forgiveness Will Follow
Forgiveness always starts with a choice. It doesn’t happen with a feeling.
When you make your mind up to forgive, you allow your emotions to follow the lead. The feelings of forgiveness will eventually come, but not until you have mentally welcomed them first. This is a good example of emotions or feelings coming under control of the Will.
Too often, a betrayal from a friend makes us replay that event in our minds over and over. This behaviour will keep you in a negative state of hurt. What’s worse is that your mind will naturally exaggerate the hurt, and make the negativity worse each time you replay it in your head. So don’t do that.
Rather, ask yourself: Am I being thoroughly objective about the hurt this person caused me? Or is my objectivity clouded by emotions, pride and resentment?
3. Forgive Without Expectation of Continuing the Relationship
Another thing that prevents people from forgiveness is the worry that they aren’t ready to continue the friendship yet. Some friends are able to reconcile after a bad event and some aren’t. But don’t connect forgiveness to reconciliation as each are different emotional processes.
Forgive without thinking about reconciliation for the moment. Tell yourself you will need time to consider whether to trust your friend again, but in the mean time, you can still forgive. If, at some point in the future, you feel like you want to be friends again, you can explore that. But it doesn’t have to be a condition for the forgiveness.
Finally, forgiveness is about you, not the person who did you wrong. When you forgive, it frees you mentally so you can move forward and be happy again, if not with this friend, then with other friendships.