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Can You Forgive The Unforgivable?

Can You Forgive The Unforgivable?
Can You Forgive The Unforgivable?

“I could never forgive that…I will never forgive him…that is unforgivable!”

Have you ever spoken those words?

Every one of us has had an experience whereby we were wronged and we conclude that this person or this action is unforgivable. You might even feel that it is you that has done something unforgivable.

And this is the greatest challenge we face in life – to forgive the person that we believe we could never forgive.

But why should we even consider forgiving the unforgivable and how do we go about doing that?

Does it make you angry just reading the suggestion to forgive that person?

When we choose to not forgive someone, we are actually hurting ourselves. Yes, that sounds trite, so let me explain. The opposite of forgiveness is a host of negative emotions – anger, resentment, bitterness, contempt, judgment, blame, condemnation, ill will, self-righteousness and so forth.

These emotions exist within us when we choose not to forgive, and worse, they reside in our heart. And like a poison, they infect our relationships.

How can you have a happy, fulfilling relationship if you carry resentment, blame or anger in your heart, even if it is not directed at your partner?

To forgive what we perceive to be unforgivable, we must first get clear about why we refuse to forgive. In other words, what are you afraid will happen were you to forgive that person?

There might be numerous reasons (fears) such as:

1. If I forgive him, he will hurt me again
2. If I forgive him, he will be getting away with it
3. If I forgive him, I will be condoning what he did and I will be setting a bad example
4. If I forgive him. I will lose my power and self-respect
5. If I forgive him, I will have to let him back into my life
6. If I forgive him, I will be invalidating myself and my feelings

Few people fully understand that forgiveness does not automatically infer that the person must be let back in your life; you can forgive someone but exclude them from your life, particularly if they refuse to change.

So what is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is giving understanding for what happened.

We are humans and therefore we all make mistakes. We are all imperfect and therefore, no matter how hard we try, we will screw up again; we will do the wrong thing and hurt someone, and even possibly, ourselves.

So here is the formula for forgiving the unforgivable:

1. Validate your feelings – you are allowed to feel as angry and as hurt as you choose
2. Face your fear or barrier to forgiving the person that wronged you (see the list above)
3. Decide whether or not you will allow this person back into your life (you might forgive a cheating partner but end the relationship because you know they cannot or do not want to change)
4. Understand why they did what they did (or omitted to do something)
5. Recall and accept that we are imperfect
6. Express compassion

Finally, remember the way you treat others is the same way you treat yourself, and vice versa. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, and to others. Forgive everyone!

If you need help to forgive someone, including forgiving yourself, book a one-on-one session with me.

Patrick Wanis PhD
Human Behavior Expert

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