Forgiving someone is a highly personal action and there are often many layers to a grudge, with context such as your relationship with the person, expectations and other personal problems meaning that there is often much to be unravelled. As a result, there is no one size fits all solution. There are, however, some general guidelines you can follow that will help you figure out your path to forgiveness.
- Reflect on the situation- take sufficient time out to understand your emotions. If you have been holding a grudge against someone for a long time then it is likely there are many things that you are holding on to or that are blocking you from forgiving the person. By gaining insight into these things it may become easier to take the next step.
- It is important to note that this is different to rumination- instead of continually going over what the other person has done and why it was so wrong, you are reflecting on your own response in search of clarity and solutions.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It can be easy to forget that other people have complex lives and are subject to all kinds of stress, and may be dealing with circumstances you don’t know about were influencing there behaviour. Equally, it may be that when you consider the situation from their perspective, certain things you said or did may have been unreasonable.
- Talk it through with a trusted friend or therapist. When we are stuck in our own head we often develop a warped perception of situations. By talking with someone emotionally mature, we can gain perspective and feel emotionally supported. It is important, however, that the conversation be constructive; as with the first point, the goal is to come to terms with the situation and find solutions, not to linger on the offence or validate your negative feelings towards them.
- Choose to learn from the experience- experience they say is the best teacher. Often the most painful experiences provide the most opportunity for growth. While each situation is different, every time you practise forgiveness you are building the habit of being gracious.
- Move on. If you have gone through the steps listed above, and are still not free from resentment then the best approach is likely just to try and drop the issue; some problems cannot be resolved and the best solution is to redirect your mind to something more fruitful. This may include avoiding certain people and situations if negative sentiment persists on exposure.
In closing, holding grudges is a problem faced by everyone at some point, but there are many reasons why it is important to deal with this issue in our lives.
In the words of Lewis B. Smedes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”