A big part of socialization involves people impacting and affecting each other, both positively and negatively. The negative impact can be hurting another person. That means to cause them pain, damage, or distress. And the person who was hurt has to carry or find a way to cope with that pain.
On the other hand, forgiveness is to give up the resentment or cease to feel that resentment against someone. And one of the best ways to cope with painful situations is by forgiving the person who caused it.
Forgiveness brings peace and calm to the person who was hurt, which at the same time improves well-being. But how to forgive someone who hurt you? That is where psychotherapy is a way to find answers!
Through counseling, you can find the steps needed to forgive the one who caused you pain, distress, and frustration. At the same time, you can get relief from that painful situation.
As integral beings, many mental health conditions can result from painful events, such as being hurt by another person. Great examples are mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
And why is it important to know how to forgive someone who hurt you? Not only can resentment be a risk factor for many mental disorders, it also can make you more immersed in the pain cycle. The less you forgive, the more you’ll continue suffering because of the same situation.
Similarly, being in that constant pain cycle can bring many difficulties in other areas. According to research, the emotion-focused coping process of forgiveness may help mitigate the effects of psychological stress. Also, forgiving someone who hurt you can help you learn how to manage your anger, which is a really common response to pain.
What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t
The key to understanding how to forgive someone is to start by understanding the action itself – what forgiving means. As mentioned before, forgiveness is to give up resentment. It is to cease to feel resentment against someone, and there are many things to take into account to get to that point.
For example, there are many misconceptions related to forgiveness that can make the process even more frustrating and difficult. That’s why it’s important to understand what forgiveness is and what it isn't.
What forgiveness isn’t
The best way to understand actions and concepts like forgiveness is through examples. Here are some examples of things that are not the same as forgiveness, and that probably won't help you if you want to learn how to forgive someone:
- If you want to forgive someone for cheating on you, you must know that forgiveness doesn't mean you are excusing or justifying that person's actions.
- If you want to forgive someone you love, it doesn't mean ignoring or trying to forget what happened.
- If you want to forgive someone you hate, it doesn't mean you have to let them know you’re forgiving them.
- If you want to forgive someone who betrayed you, you must know that forgiving them doesn't mean they have to remain a part of your life.
And the best part of these examples is that they can be applied to every situation in which you want to know how to forgive someone, no matter what the situation is or who is involved.
What forgiveness is
Now it’s time to understand what forgiveness really involves. The basis of forgiveness is a group of characteristics:
- Acceptance. When you forgive, you are accepting the reality as it happened. Thanks to that, you also understand there’s nothing you can do to change it and that there’s no reason to change it at all.
- Forgiveness is for yourself, and that depends solely on you. Forgiving is a personal and individual action that doesn't involve the person who hurt you. This is something you do for yourself to move on and find peace and relief. The person you forgive doesn't really matter and doesn’t even need to be part of it. You are not only forgiving them but also the situation itself.
- Forgiveness is a gradual process. It is something that needs a lot of practice. Therapy is so helpful because that process demands guidance, time, and having someone to support you along the way.
- Learning from the situation. As it happens with any hurtful situation when someone hurts you, you also learn something about yourself, others, and life itself.
And these are just some of the elements involved. Depending on the person and the situation, others may be involved in the process too.
Why Should I Forgive?
When it comes to forgiving someone who hurt you, there are many benefits you can get from forgiveness. They are all based on two parts: the pain of being hurt and the action of forgiving itself. Those two parts are related and are the basis of why there is a need to forgive:
- It improves your mental health. When you learn and practice how to forgive someone, you are also learning to cope with the scars the hurtful situation left. Once you learn to cope with those scars, you start improving your mental health.
- It sets you free. As mentioned before, being hurt by someone can make you immersed in the cycle of pain. You are hurt, you tend to constantly remember the situation that hurt you, and that can perpetuate the pain. But when you forgive, you set yourself free from that cycle by letting the situation go.
- It helps you move forward with your life. You can move on because you leave the pain and the situation in the past.
- According to research, forgiveness facilitates well-being-related work outcomes.
What Can I Do to Forgive Someone Who Hurt Me?
Now it’s time to move on to the action. What can you do? What needs to be done when it comes to forgiving someone who hurt you?
The actions or steps will vary from person to person and case by case. But there are still some things that can be applied by everyone. Some of those include:
- Expressing yourself: The best way to start is by letting out everything you think about the situation and how it made – and still makes – you feel.
- Finding what the situation left in you: Identify how you changed after what happened and what you’ve learned from it.
- Being objective: You must know that this story has many sides. Carefully look at the situation and find what others felt and what could have triggered it.
- Being empathetic and patient with yourself: Forgiveness is a gradual process that requires a lot of learning and practicing.
- Remembering that this is about you: This is mostly helpful for those cases in which you want to learn how to forgive someone who isn't sorry, which is really common.
How Therapy Helps With Forgiving
Therapy, either in-person or online counseling, is a process and a practice in which a therapist guides a client to discover themselves, the situations they’ve lived, how those have impacted them, and what their response to that impact is.
Based on that, the therapist provides them with many tools through different therapeutic approaches that help them develop a more adaptive response to negative situations, learn to cope with those situations, and improve their overall well-being.
In-person or online therapy can be applied to many situations in life, and forgiving is no exception. It not only gives you the tools needed for forgiveness but also helps you cope with the situation and the pain it left in you.
Forgiveness therapy is a subtype of therapy focused on helping clients forgive and move on. There are two types: process-based and decision-based. The first one uses cognitive, behavioral, and effective strategies to guide and teach the client to forgive and move on from a certain situation, and requires a long period of time.
The second one uses cognitive strategies and is based on giving the client “homework” related to working on forgiveness by themselves out of session, which makes this type of therapy shorter.
Some of the most common forgiveness therapy techniques are based on the cognitive theory of psychology, which means they are related to the person's thinking process. A really common technique is writing a forgiveness letter in which the person can express themselves freely and can organize what they want to say, regardless if they end up actually saying it, thus providing them a sense of closure.
Learning to Forgive
One of the most important ways to heal is to learn how to forgive someone, both the person and the situation that causes you the most pain. Forgiveness is a powerful, gradual process based on learning and practicing tools that you can get through in-person or online therapy.
Not forgiving someone who hurt you can make you stay trapped in a cycle of pain and damage your well-being. When you learn how to forgive someone who hurt you, you work on yourself and for yourself, which at the same time allows you to learn more about yourself and to heal.