How to forgive?

I’m going through some… stuff right now. Without getting bogged down in all the details, I’d really like to move past the dumb shit to be able to enjoy and be content with my life. I’ve done a lot of work, and generally am happy. Where I’m stuck is in the whole forgive and forget.
It’s not in my nature to forgive easily. Grudges are held for decades, old wounds relived with every fresh injury. How does one truly forgive?

I would first ask myself if it is truly a forgivable offense or not (ie, do I think a person would normally be able to forgive the actions). If so, I just decide that it’s not worth my effort to hold onto the anger and it’s not doing anybody harm but myself. I’m pretty good at letting things go generally though.

Love Is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships really helped me with forgiveness.

I also have a lot of internalized anger and self-hatred, so I had to learn how to forgive myself for mistakes. When that’s successful, hatred toward other people becomes less material.

Their behavior is out of your control. You forgiving them or holding a grudge against them is not going to get the right reaction out of them, or make them change into people you can forgive. You have to let that idea go. They suck. It’s outside of your purview.

Then consider it this way.

Do you really need to forgive?

Or is it simply better for you to accept that it exists and then decide that you don’t want to spend your days angry over something that will always be there, that you don’t want to spend your minutes and hours reliving that pain by constantly thinking about it.

That’s really the trick there. Catch yourself every time you start thinking about it, every time you rent it space in your head, and…change the subject. Think about something else. Deliberately find good things to think about. Think about how much better things are now, and that you want to keep being in the now, in the better times, which means not living in that past pain.

That whole changing the subject thing is important. It is the breaking of patterns of behavior and thought, which are reinforced every time you lock yourself in that loop. So you need to learn to stop yourself, and step out of that loop, so that the pattern is broken and fades.

These are all excellent suggestions. Changing the subject on my inner dialog is something I’m definitely working on.

This thread is SO timely for me. Thank you.

No idea. If you figure it out let me know.

I think being able to accept yourself is a big part of forgiveness, at least for me. Once you can do that grudges aren’t as important because you aren’t as reliant on external approval and your identity isn’t as badly harmed by trauma.

I think it has to do with how you percieve the offense or offender. I see all of us as imperfect. All my tools were stolen a few years ago by a fellow mechanic. I really hard a hard time keeping this from eating me up or getting me arrested. I don’t even want to forgive him. I never could prove he did it. So my only option was to get over it or die from a stroke. Somehow I just let it go.

When I was young and at the start of my working life, I made some mistakes and ended up getting fired from a job. It took me a while to find another job, an during that time I worked myself into a lather with hatred and blame for the person who fired me.“It was not my fault!” I told myself. After a while, I guess I got tired of doing that, and decided that I was, in fact, at fault for what occured. In my mind I forgave the manager who fired me, and came to peace with it. Within a couple weeks of this acceptance, I landed my next job. Maybe I became more relaxed, and was able to speak about it more truthfully. Part of growing up, or something.

About a year after I was fired, by chance I ended up at a party with my former boss thru a mutual friend. I know the boss was nervous when I approached, but I went all-in to politely meet and greet, and I ended up thanking my old boss for doing what had to be done. It made me grow up a lot, and I was better for it in the long run. We had a few laughs and agreed to move-on.

I guess that is what forgiving is all about - moving on. The good thing about forgiving is that you have 100% control over who you forgive.

Not only changing the subject, but literally knowing what you are going to say when the subject comes up in your head. If you just try and change it randomly you will probably have a hard time keeping that focus and fall back into that mindset. So prepare yourself.

When you start going over it, just tell yourself. “I’m over this. I’m stronger than this. I’m better than this.” Or, something you come up with.

There is a country song titled “Forgive” that was a radio hit about 10 years ago. I can’t help but think about it when I think about forgiveness. The song lyrics are from a wife’s point of view, her husband comes home from work one day and confesses to an affair he had been having but just ended…the chorus goes “Forgive? Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man and I’m not sure I can….cause I don’t even know now who I am…it’s too soon for me to say…Forgive….”

It’s not necessarily relevant to the rest of my posting, but it’s how my works and I had to get it out the way….

The concept of ‘Forgive and Forget’ oversimplifies the situation, pain and emotional damage usually associated with someone needed Forgiveness! It’s literally impossible to force yourself to “Forget” many things, especially painful ones.

The ‘Forget’ part of the equation doesn’t mean literally forgetting. It is a decision you make when you Forgive that you will NOT hold the forgiven transgression against the person(s) you forgive- regardless of what happens in the future! Forget means it can’t be used against them ever again…if that makes sense?

Forgiveness is often an ongoing process and sometimes it is a process that doesn’t have an end! You may choose to forgive someone and a few months later, anger and resentment might start to taint your feeling for the person….but once you have made the decision to forgive, you must deal with those negative emotions when they arise and make the decision, once again, in your heart and mind that you have forgiven this person. And you may end up doing that over and over for the rest of your life….but usually time will help you heal and let go of it all.

Another misconception about forgiveness is that you must maintain or try to restore a relationship with those you have forgiven. For the lack of a better term, that is BULLSHIT! You can forgive someone and still choose to not have any further contact with them.

But the most important thing to learn about Forgiveness is that often it isn’t something you do for the person who has hurt you OR to restore a relationship…it is something you do for YOURSELF!!! Holding a grudge and hating someone is like drinking poison but expecting the other person to die! Hate destroys you and that person who is the object of your hatred may not even remember your name!

Then there are some situations where you forgive because you want to repair or re-establish a relationship with someone. That can be the most difficult one because it takes the most effort on your part and there’s no guarantee that your transgressor even knows or believes that they did anything that bad to you! As you work to repair the relationship, there will be times when you want to throw in the towel and walk away- and that may be a legitimate choice. But most often, you continue and must force yourself to dig even deeper to cope with the stress of the process.

I’ll share my own story with you and I’ll try to make it the Cliff Notes version-

I spent the first 36 years of my life hating my father. He and my mom were married until I was 15, we lived in the same house, but I had no relationship with the man and often went months without uttering a word to him. My sister, who is 3yrs older than me, was his favorite child. She was an athlete, she was a daddy’s girl, she adored him and he could do no wrong in her eyes. Then I came along and by the age of ten, I had and IQ of 138 and as part of my contempt and hatred toward him, I made it very clear to him that I was already smarter than him and more of a man than he could ever be and I hadn’t even started puberty yet! I actually said these things to him and he usually became very angry and upset. Since my sister was dad’s favorite, I was automatically mom’s favorite and she made it known to my dad, other family members, friends, almost everyone. She thought that was the way to protect me, but instead it made my sister despise her….

My dad was an alcoholic but only drank on weekends. He would stay out until 3 or 4am and when he came home, my mom would do everything possible to pick fight with him! But she was sober and she was MAD AS HELL, so when he would finally take a swing at her, she’d dodge his fist and clock him with a metal baseball bat, iron fire poker, shovel, 2-liter soft drink, crystal vase or anything else at hand and keep on hitting and beating him until he lost consciousness. She became more aggressive in her fights with him after he physically attacked me a few times. But I was 13 by the time that started and I was taller, stronger and smarter than him! I fought back!

The violence progressed and one of the worst nights, he ripped the facing off the front door and it had at least 7 or 8 nails sticking out of it and he started swinging it at mom. He cut her several times before I tore into him with the anger and violence of a mother bear protecting her cub (even though I was a cub protecting my mother bear) and the next 15 minutes are a blur. I only remember my mom, grandfather (from next door), two paramedics and the town cop all pulling at every limb, my hair or anywhere they could get a grip on my body to pull me off of my dad. I had spent almost 15 minutes tearing his face and head apart with my bare hands!!! Even when I realized what was going on, I distinctly remember the only thing I could feel was pure HATE and I was trying to KILL him! For several days, he was in a coma and doctors didn’t think he would survive. If he lived and came out of the coma, they weren’t sure how much damge I had done to his hearing and vision. I had also cracked or totally broken over half of his teeth and fractured his face and skull in more than 12 different places. If he ever woke up, he would require facial reconstruction and multiple operations to repair the damage I had done to his esophagus and trachea.

The county sheriff took questioned me and among the questions he asked if I was sorry, I just laughed at him. I told him that I wasn’t the least bit sorry and instead of praying for my father’s recovery, they should pray for him to die because if he came out of the coma, I would finish what I started! I almost ended up in a teen psycho facility, but my mom convinced the cop that she and I were victims of abuse ultimately no charges were brought against me.

Miraculously, my father woke up 11 days later. After nine different surgeries, he looked almost the same as before, but I had damaged his left ear drum beyond repair and he had almost complete hearing loss in that ear. His eyes were more resilient, he had several laser surgeries and eventually regained full vision. His upper teeth were damaged beyond repair, so he had to get upper dentures and six or seven crowns to repair the bottom ones. He spent almost a full month in the hospital. This happened in May 1987.

My mom and I left and moved barely one mile away to my grandmother’s house. Mom started divorce proceedings but somehow he convinced her that he was a changed man and Nov 1987, she moved back in with him and my sister. I refused and stayed with my grandma until the following summer. My dad had started drinking again and I had to go back home to protect my mom. But this time I wasn’t playing! Every night that he was out late with the boys, I would sit on the front porch with loaded 22 rifle waiting for him. I would meet him at the driveway and dare him to take a step toward the front door, he could sleep in the yard, his truck, the road, but he was not coming into the house. He challenged me the first time and I fired a warning shot close enough to his cheek that he felt the heat from the passing bullet.

After that happened, he would sleep it off in his truck (or wherever he feel and passed out) and wait until morning to come inside, crying and with a nasty hangover. He begged me for forgiveness so many times, drenched my clothes with his tears and all I ever did was look at him with disgust and I didn’t even feel the tiny bit of compassion that makes me dodge a squirrel or possum in the highway! I wanted him to storm into the house drunk just one more time and take a swing at my mom and I relished the thought of pulling the trigger and watching that bullet pierce his skull and end his miserable existence…but I didn’t want to shoot him in the head because it would kill instantly and I wouldn’t get to watch him suffer…

I was only 14-years old and he was turning me into a monster, a demon with no remorse, no compassion and no guilt…

Finally, in Dec 1989, I demanded that my mom leave him and told her if she didn’t by the end of the year, I was going to kill him! I also forced her to get an apartment 20 miles away for us and went with her to the divorce attorney to make sure the process went as quickly as possible. I didn’t give my dad a choice about any of it, I took the divorce papers to him and told him to sign if he ever wanted to walk again…I was a ruthless bully even to my own mom during that time, but I had to protect myself and get US away from him!

I went to court on the day the divorce was finalized to make certain that my dad didn’t contest it, as he had promised. It was all over in 30 days. I left the court room that day- Feb 2, 1990, planning to never see or speak to my father again. I didn’t see or speak to him for over five years after that. Even then, it was only at family funerals or weddings and I was cold but courteous for the sake of appearances. I only saw him three times between Feb 1990 and my grandfather (his dad) dying on November 2, 1998. I wanted to be in the room with my Poppa when they took him off life support and dad asked if I wanted him to leave so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Maybe it was with age and time that I regained some of my compassion, but I actually looked him square in the eyes and briefly put my hand on his shoulder and told him he had every right to be there when his father slipped away. He and my grandmother both fell to their knees and wailed in agony when heart monitor flat-lined, I was dying inside but force myself to maintain perfect composure. After a few minutes, dad started trying to get up from the floor and, before I realized or thought about what I was doing, I walked over and extended my hand to help him. But I rushed out of the room before he had a change to say anything or try to hug me.

From Nov 1998 to Dec 2001, I didn’t see or speak to my dad or my grandmother (she’s a whole ‘nother story). I only saw them in 2001 because my sister gave birth to my nephew, the first and only grandchild and we were all in and out of the hospital room for a few days. I saw them once per year thru 2007, at my nephew’s b-day party and I said nothing more than hello and goodbye.

In 2007, my step-grandfather (only grandfather I ever knew on mom’s side of family) died and I decided to move back to my hometown to live with my grandmother for a few months and help her learn to live without him and get rid of his stuff. Basically just to be her emotional support. Suddenly, the economy crashed and the building industry (the industry I had worked in since my sophomore year of college) imploded. My $125k/year job was gone, my company-provided Acura TL was gone…a few months later, my $600k 3900sq ft ‘luxury town home’ went back to the bank….and a few months at Nana’s turned into years…she and I bonded and sometimes we talked about all of the pain and violence from my childhood. She is a devout Pentecostal, but instead of being preachy or quoting scripture to me, she knew to say things in a logical way that would appeal to my rational mind if not my heart. Her greatest concern was how much my hatred for my father had harmed me (I had two bleeding ulcers by age 20, totally gray hair by age 32, numerous stress-related health conditions, I refused to make friends and had sworn that I would remain single for life (which is still the case now at age 38).

In late 2008, my other grandma (dad’s mom) was hospitalized with pneumonia. We learned that she had previously undiagnosed COPD and it was at a VERY advanced stage. My sister had been her only caregiver for a few years because she had such sever rheumatoid arthritis that she couldn’t cook or do most basic grooming functions for herself. The doctors told us she wouldn’t live to see 2009 and that was in Oct 2008.

I began helping my sister care for her, took over taking her to all doctor appointments, dealt with paying her bills and spent at least 4 hours with her each Sat or Sunday just visiting. I found myself loving her the way I did as a kid and we grew closer with each passing day. 2009 arrived and she kept on going, then 2010 came and went, that tough old gal was tough as nails and she was fairly healthy thru most of 2011. On Thanksgiving Day 2011, my sister couldn’t’ get her on the phone so she went over to her house and found her barely conscious in the floor and vomiting blood. After several days of testing at the hospital, we learned that she had a large cancerous tumor in her abdomen and it had eaten thru her stomach wall already. The oncologist was very kind and, when my grandma asked her what she would do if she was in the same situation, the doctor said I would go home and enjoy the time I have left with my family. The dr estimated that she had 10-12 weeks left, at most!

She lives for 11 weeks and two days. My sister and I moved in with her and stayed 24/7 for the entire time. To our amazement, my step-mom insisted that my she and my father also move in for the duration- even though my grandma had treated my step-mom horribly. Suddenly, the five of us- me, my sister, my grandmother, my dad and step-mom were all living under (small) roof for the next three months or so….I was hardly optimistic that it would be pleasant in any way but I refused to be the one to bail, plus I was enjoying every second with my grandma….

I’m not a spiritual or religious person, but something supernatural happened in that house for the entire time we were all there together. We talked, laughed, shared stories and I even got to know my step-mom for the first time even though she had been married to my dad for 22 years! A few days after her cancer diagnosis, Nana and I talked and laughed sitting in front of the fireplace in the den one night and suddenly realized the sun was rising, we had stayed up all night and didn’t realize it because we were having such a good time. Before she went to her bedroom, she sat down beside me and said “If either of us doesn’t wake up today, tomorrow or whatever day down the road, You and I both know how much we love one another and that we have said and done everything that we need to to each other…”

She told me that she only had one wish- to see her family reunited (for me and my dad to reconcile…or actually, to have a relationship for the very first time) and I told her to keep it in her prayers and I would try to keep my heart and mind open. At that time, I was just blowing smoke up a dying old lady’s ass, but I’ll be damned if the following week, my dad and I had a conversation that lasted almost an hour, then we watched some tv together. I fought it as hard as I could, but time and carrying so much hate and anger for so long was a burden that I suddenly decided would be buried before my grandmother left this life!

Dad and I were having four and five hour long talks on the back screend porch almost every night. He would cry like a baby but I made sure that I had enough Valium and Paxil in my system that I wouldn’t show any physical signs of human emotion, like tears…Four weeks before she died, my dad asked me what it would take for me to forgive him and he even said he had wished for years that I had killed him so he couldn’t’ have hurt me or my mom any more. I was shocked at my response, but I told that all I wanted was for him to admit that he wasn’t a parent to me, that he felt true remorse for the pain he caused my mother and myself and that he truly loved me now and wanted to start fresh- not try to make up for the past, not dwell on the hell that we lived in or the horrible things any of us did….but with a clean sheet, get to know each other, spend time together, be friends if possible…all conditions he gladly met and felt I was letting him off the hook far too easily…

But I also told him I needed one more two more things from him and I needed him to answer HONESTLY no matter if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I also told him that whatever he said, I still wanted to get to know him and he could say exactly what he felt,m not what he thought he should say….

The first thing was that I needed him to call my mom and apologize to her. But the big thing I needed was to know how he felt about having a gay son! I wasn’t sure what to expect but at very best it would be somewhat negative,……He started crying and told me that he had discussed it many times with my step-mom over the years and that the previous year, when he and weren’t even speaking yet, he actuallyl joined the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Chapter at the College where he was Director of Security! He also told me that he knew he had damaged me and that I couldn’t trust or love, but that his only hope was when that right fellow crosses my path, I’ll find a way to open my heart to him! And that he hoped to have another son-in-law (as in me have a ‘husband’) someday….but he followed up with the obligatory, please just ‘be safe’…I thought he would be relieved when I told I had been celibate for the past 8 years….he said, I don’t mean THAT goddamn safe! I pinched myself repeatedly for the next few days to make sure I wasn’t on an acid trip or zapped into an Alternate Universe……

But we buried my grandmother in Feb 2012 and I spoke for over 45 minutes at her service. I ended my eulogy by looking at my dad on the first pew and saying “Dad, I love you and I look forward to growing a relationship with you as an adult and not based on the sins of our past, Nana got her greatest wish!”

I helped him remodel Nana’s house after her death so he and my step-mom could live there since they both had just retired and were renting a home. My sister and I were blown away when he sat us down to discuss her estate and will. She had left all of her assets, her home, two rental homes, several acres of commercial property, $250k in Life Insurance, $100k+ in other cash/liquid assets- all totaled the estate was worth over $750k. It was to be divided equally into thirds- dad, my sis and I each got the same portion. We decided that none of us wanted my grandparents home sold, so we set it up so he and my step-mom can live there for the remainder of their lives rent-free. If they choose to move out at any point, we will still maintain ownership and my sister or I can live there or we can rent it out. I expected Dad to be hurt because my sister and I were treated as if we were her children in the will, but he was actually her only child. But he was actually happy because he said it was proof that while he was a pathetic excuse for father and husband, his mom and dad were there loving and taking care of us!

If you’ve read this far, sorry the Cliff Notes intention didn’t work out….at all…if this was in print, it would be multiple bound volumes……but maybe some part of it will do some good and help others know that when all hope is long gone, dead, buried….life can surprise you and, even more amazing, people like my father can actually grow and change for the better….

Holy crap, beelzebubba, maybe I’ve been up too late - but that was pretty impressive.

Makes me feel like a Giant Dick for some of the things I’ve held grudges for :slight_smile:

That was quite a story but it was helpful. Thanks!

Depends on the transgression. I assume we’re talking about serious wrongs - betrayal, abuse, the toilet paper roll put on the wrong way. In such cases, forgiveness is over rated. But letting things go and getting on with your own life is a good idea. A scorched earth policy with respect to the offending party helps you do that.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about those things :slight_smile:

It’s something I’m working on, forgiving others for the hurts of the past. I could not do it by myself. I have to have help through my faith in God.

Sometimes, when you know you want to forgive and move on, know you should forgive and move on but still can’t the reason is that, like most things in life, it’s not all black and white. Especially when you have been horribly treated such that anyone would recognize the other person is egregiously at fault.

But the harder truth is we all have some ownership in everything that happens to us. When you want to put all the blame on the other person, when you can’t stop it replaying, over and over, in your head, it’s almost always because you’re not owning your part in it. That’s why you cannot put it behind you and move on.

Own your part in things, and suddenly it will stop replaying, you’ll be able to put it behind you, has been my experience.

Something to think about!

Wow, Beezlebubba. Thanks for sharing.

In all respect (I generally like and learn from your posts) that’s not necessarily true. A child has no responsibility for their abuse and forgiveness lets the abusers off the hook, something I don’t want to do. The things I’ve fucked up since I’m more than willing to cop to. OTOH, to paraphrase a friend, shit gets really heavy when you refuse to put it down.

I don’t know if this will be a help to you, but I worked my way through High school, the lady I live with was very kind and smart. She told me that if one is pulling another down it says more about that person, than the other; if you are in a higher place you lift someone up, you have to be lower to pull some one down, and forgiving is like standing in the place of another,helping you understand their situation and helping them look beyond their position because they are standing on your shoulders. It had helped me all through my life and also my children.