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A Down and Dirty Guide to Forgiveness

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“Oh! Wow! I just told you I forgive you and I instantly feel all better.”, said almost no one ever.

Forgiveness is such a complicated subject. There are enough books and platitudes out there on forgiveness to keep you busy reading and musing into eternity. And yet, for all of the wise words written and spoken on the subject, forgiving is often incredibly hard to do, if not seemingly impossible.

I think most of us get the basics of forgiveness as adults. They go something like this:

Forgiving doesn’t mean you condone the behavior that caused harm.

Forgiving is something you do for yourself not the other person.

Forgiving doesn’t have to mean you want the other person to remain in your life.

However, beyond that, I think a lot of people are confused about what forgiveness really is, and as a result, how forgiveness really works.

Forgiveness is not a gift you give someone, it’s a decision. More importantly, forgiveness is a process not a feeling.


When you’ve been deeply injured, or even moderately hurt for that matter, by someone you love, or even someone you never loved, if you wait for some wave of goodwill to just wash over you to think you’ve forgiven, you’ll be waiting a long time. Most of the time you don’t have that long to wait, we all die eventually.

Forgiveness is a verb. It’s an action word. It's fluid. Sometimes you feel like you’re chasing it, and occasionally you feel like it’s chasing you.

It can also be a slippery slope, painfully elusive, and taxing on every level.

Simply put, forgiveness is not for sissies. It’s messy business. Forgiving is not linear. It doesn’t go in a straight line from forgiving to redemption and healed. It’s not something that happens on one day you can mark on a calendar. It’s not one point on a map.

Forgiving is an unpredictable, all over the board, process that feels like dancing with fire when your drunk and haven’t slept for a week. That said, understanding the nature of the beast does make it easier to ride.

However, the other options suck way worse over the long haul. There are no exceptions to the rule on this one. Failing to forgive will make you sick.

It will cut off access to the joy in your life.

Failing to forgive will keep you stuck in the pain of the injury in a way that keeps you forever trapped in that moment, and unable to move forward with your life. Trust me on this, you do not want that. It will make you an angry, shrivelled bitter person, that ages faster than someone who only eats at McDonald's and smokes three packs a day.

So, knowing that, there are really only two questions to ask yourself. “When will I forgive”, and “Can the person who did this to me stay in my life?”.

Let’s take on number one. When will I forgive? Considering it’s a process that might take awhile, I’d suggest starting today. I’m not kidding about the whole, “we’re all going to die”, thing.

The harder question is the second. Can this person stay in my life? You’d better be damned clear on the answer because the surest path to misery for everyone involved is staying in a relationship that’s stuck in the pain of something you can’t move past. If you intend to stay you have to not just be willing to forgive, but you also have to let go, and sometimes no matter how strong you are, you can’t. And if you can’t, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re human. Sometimes you just can’t go back to the way things were. Sometimes you can’t even find a “new normal” together.

But the miracle of love between two people is this –
sometimes you can, even when you thought you couldn’t.

Sometimes the worst shit imaginable can go down between two people and they can, in fact, let it go and move forward. Love never ceases to surprise me.

No matter what you decide about what the future holds, when you decide to forgive here are three simple steps to help you do it.

1. Decide to forgive and take a deep breath.

2. Remind yourself over and over again you are actively forgiving, and take a deep breath.

3. Start over again at step number 1 and repeat, probably 1000 times.

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Lisa Hayes, The Love Whisperer, is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.

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