How to Forgive and Work Through Your Grudges

Forgiveness tends to be a part of the “spirit of the holidays” that asks you to temporarily put aside differences and appreciate the people in your life. Is this pressure to suppress your feelings a reason why the holidays can be tense? 

In addition to being detrimental to interpersonal relationships, harboring grudges is awful for your health mentally, emotionally, and physically. The hurt and anger goes to the hips worse than french fries and pie. Most of your joints, the ones part of your jaw, your shoulders, even your fingers making a tight fist, take the brunt of tension from grudges. Grudges produce toxic thoughts about the people involved and generally towards your outlook on life. Assistance in transforming toxic thoughts is further addressed in my post on mantras. The excessive negativity does not age well in your body. So to minimize these effects, how do you effectively forgive?

Italian Alps, Courmayeur, Italy

A few considerations for forgiveness:

To forgive is not to forget. When you need to let something go, that does not mean the issue or feelings behind it go away because you say so. It’s not about pretending that it never happened or that it is no longer important. If someone is upset, then it is important. Sometimes time heals, but sometimes it simply postpones. Communicate!

Giving and receiving an apology requires responsibility, awareness, and humility. Remember that everyone is entitled to their feelings. Even if the other person has some of their own growth and work to do, their feelings are still justified. A meaningful apology accepts that something you did or said has provoked a reaction no matter if you think the reaction is unreasonable. There is a difference between “I’m sorry if you feel offended” (belittling, blame) and “I’m sorry I have offended you” (responsibility, humility).

Apologies can feel uncomfortable because they often involve a certain amount of vulnerability and reduction of ego. If your tone sounds like you are not ready to apologize, then you’re probably not ready. Giving yourself and the other person a few minutes or hours to settle emotions and reflect on the feelings involved, is a calm, compassionate approach. Go openly and honestly. Honesty does not pinpoint the flaws of another, but uses awareness of where both parties are facing difficulty. Instead of “you never listen to me,” try, “I feel unheard when you walk away.”

Marshall Rosenberg, who specializes in global conflict resolution and peacemaking, says “to tell people what’s alive in us we need to be able to tell them what they’re doing that is supporting life in us, as well as what they’re doing that isn’t supporting life in us. But it’s very important to learn how to say that to people without mixing in any evaluation.” In order to do this, we need self-reflection. What need is not being met? He says, “to say clearly say what’s alive in us at any given moment we have to be clear about what we feel and what we need.” 

A Happy Family in Dublin, Ireland

How do you recover when someone has done something despicably wrong? Try to remind yourself of your values and limits. If the behavior has been an inconvenience, surprise, and minor disappointment, then you can assess a quicker ability to effectively handle it. If you are facing devastation, the healing process may present more like the stages of grief. It’s perfectly acceptable to request time for this process. Keep in mind that requesting time is unhelpful when you decide to use it to constantly remind the person of their mistake, take revenge, or continue to punish the other person for their wrong-doing. Either spend time apart or talk it through.

If you want this person to remain in your life, consider a role reversal and/or offer a second chance. Moving onward, takes rebuilding trust and careful evaluation of what to let go. Be sure one person’s mistakes does not ruin your trust in all of your relationships. Circumstances whether you or others have made a mistake is a learning opportunity for everyone involved with the relationship.

If you are seeking forgiveness you probably know that it feels vulnerable to show remorse and to ask someone to consider your willingness to be better. It can feel like handing over your power, which some people may think is a fair trade for whatever misdemeanor (or great offense) you have done.

There is a powerful mantra from Hawaiian tradition called Ho’oponopono. Meditating on this mantra is a way of leaning into that vulnerability and surrendering. The lines are: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I thank you. I love you. The sentences are not easy to say. As you say this aloud in a meditative position, envision the person or situation you’d like to seek forgiveness from. Notice any sensations in your body, and hold yourself with self-compassion. This mantra is not limited to seeking forgiveness either. I’ve used it for other healing work by following a guided consecutive repetition of it 108 times before sleep.

To forgive is to accept what has happened, the feelings involved, learn from it, and decide how you will move on making reparations. 

To forgive is to free and be freed. If you like this page, please share it.

Reference: Rosenberg, M. (2005). Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What you say next will change the world. Encinitas, California: Puddle Dancer Press. detail.action?docID=296283. 

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