How to Find Happiness and Healing Through Forgiveness

Warwick Fairfax

June 22, 2021

Crucible experiences are hard to get over.  One of the hardest parts of getting over a devastating failure or setback is forgiving others or yourself.  You may have been wronged, harmed or even abused by someone.  How in the world can you forgive them for what they did to you?  You may have failed and let down those who counted on you, perhaps even people that loved you.   Why should anyone forgive you?  How can you forgive yourself?

Forgiving others and forgiving yourself, which can sometimes be almost harder, is critical to overcoming crucible experiences.  Anger and bitterness, however understandable or even justified you may think they are, do not help you.  They lock you in a prison of anger and resentment, even seething rage at times.  How do you move on with your life amidst constant waves of anger and rage?  How do you live a productive life and live a life of significance, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others, with such constant negative emotions?  The short answer is that you don’t.

So how do you forgive?  How do you, how can you, move forward?  Is it even possible?

Yes, it is. Try these steps.

1. You are worth it!

Anger and bitterness indeed form a prison from which there is no escape.  Perhaps somebody did something to you that you think is unforgivable.  Even if that is the case, ask yourself whether that seething rage serves you.  Is it freeing you or do you feel that your anger and bitterness own you?  No matter how awful the circumstances, you let the anger and bitterness win if you don’t forgive.  You in effect let the other person win who wronged you.   Why let anger and bitterness and the other person win?  You owe it to yourself and those who love you to move on, to live a productive life.

2. Forgiving does not mean condoning.

Just because you forgive someone does not mean you approve or accept their behavior.  Nor does it mean that where appropriate there shouldn’t be legal consequences.  People who cause injustice should be held accountable.  Forgiveness and condoning bad behavior are two different concepts.

3. Forgiveness takes time.

It is a matter of the will.  And it is not easy. You choose to forgive not because you feel like it, but because you are worth it.  For your own sanity and for those who love you and care for you, you just need to do it.  One way that can be helpful is to try to understand what motivated the other person to do what they did.  For instance, it is often the case that those who abuse were often abused themselves.  That does not make abuse right.  But trying to understand what led to someone abusing others can help you process the emotions roiling around inside you.  It might even give us some level of compassion for someone who was abused themselves.  Again, this is not about condoning, but about finding ways for you to be able to move on.

4. Channel your pain in a more productive way.

For instance, for those who may have been abused or betrayed, trying to comfort others who have been abused and betrayed can actually help you.  When you focus on being there for others, with caring for others who are in pain, it takes your focus off your own pain.  You are thinking of others not yourself.  That act of thinking of others while not being consumed by your own pain can actually be helpful even healing.

5. Get help.

Sometimes anger and bitterness can be so deep rooted that counseling or therapy can be helpful.  Seeking counseling is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of strength.  It is a sign that you are willing to deal with your pain, move on and lead a productive life.

6. Modeling forgiveness helps others.

By showing others that you can forgive what many may see as unforgivable, you show them the way.  You model for them what it means to let go of what is holding you back and not serving you, and to be able to move on and lead a productive life.  You show them that you refuse to let anger and bitterness win.

7. Forgive yourself.

Sometimes forgiving yourself can be the highest mountain to climb.  Sometimes we are the people who may have done what others may think is unforgivable.  Sometimes we may have done things we think are unforgiveable, unwise decisions and actions that have hampered our lives – from struggling with addiction to poor professional choices from which we have yet to fully recover. If others should be forgiven, then perhaps we should forgive ourselves.  This does not mean we shouldn’t try to make amends for what we have done.  It doesn’t mean there’s not work ahead of us because of the consequences of our behavior. Sometimes part of the atoning work for the mistakes we have made can come through encouraging others to not make the same mistakes that we did.  To help reduce the incidence of what we did.  Using our mistakes and failures to help others can be part of the healing process for us.  It can also lead us to pursue a vision that leads to our own life of significance.

Forgiveness of others or of yourself is not easy.    But to live a productive life, a life of significance, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others, it is vital.  You are worth it!  Do not let anger and bitterness win!  You are not defined by the worst thing that happened to you, or even by your worst mistake or failure.  We are defined by our choices and how we choose to deal with adversity.  Offer forgiveness to others and offer forgiveness to yourself.  That is part of what it means to live a life of peace and grace, and indeed a life of joy.

Reflection

  • What is it that you need to forgive, be it in others or in yourself?
  • How will forgiving enable you to move on?
  • What one step will you choose to take today to get out of the prison of anger and bitterness?

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