How Do I Forgive Someone?

Photo Credit: Wil Kristin, Johannesburg, South Africa

Photo Credit: Wil Kristin, Johannesburg, South Africa

I hear people say to me, “I just need to forgive them and move on.”  A month will go by and I’ll ask about the forgiveness and they are still stuck in anger or resentment and “un-forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is tricky. From the mind, we believe we can just “do it” or “force it” and we can be done with our pain and move on.

The problem is that forgiveness can’t happen from the mind, it has to happen from the heart. It’s something we feel and not something we can think.

So how do we do it?

1. The process of forgiveness begins with feeling our own feelings fully. This means, get out of our heads and get into our bodies and feel the feelings that the other person caused us. 

Our mind keeps us stuck in analysis mode and tries to figure out why the event happened or why the person did what they did. We must drop into our bodies and feel our own feelings about it. Get in touch with what’s real for us. If you can’t feel the true emotion, take notice of where in the body the feeling is residing. Start there and wait and see what emotion comes up.

2. After feeling our own feelings, we then can imagine sitting with the person that hurt us. Look at what happened from their perspective, with all of their childhood wounds, with all of their limited beliefs, with all of their dysfunction and “humanness” (who doesn’t have these things?) Sit in this place and wonder about where they were coming from in committing their offense. Was it intentional? Ask yourself how old they feel (from an emotional perspective). Do you get an image of the age they were acting or reacting from?

This exercise is one where we may have to do a few times, which is fine. By they way, we never have to agree with what they did or agree with anything about their offense. But we want to gain understanding of this other person, fully, in our own bodies. 

3. Once we feel like we can fully sit in their shoes as an observer of their offense, only then can compassion for this person happen and we can see the person for who they are (with their wounds, dysfunctions and own pain).

This exercise may have to be done a few times. I encourage you to sit quietly with your eyes closed and see the other person as a child (age 0-10). We do not typically offend others unless we are acting from our wounded part. When we can see the offender with compassion I find that forgiveness spontaneously happens. It happens within us, full bodied and from the heart. Then we feel a shift and the offender no longer is offensive to us and we see them for who they truly are, a wounded child.