How to Know When Forgiveness is the Next Step in Your Recovery Process


If you’re like most people, forgiveness can sometimes seem impossible.

Maybe you feel like the person who hurt or wronged you doesn’t deserve your forgiveness.

Forgiveness can be tough. Let’s review what it is, and what it is not.

What forgiveness is:

  • It’s complex, often including your thoughts, emotions, body-felt sensations, and even your spiritual experience.

  • It’s a process, not an event. It unfolds over time, as you are ready.

  • It’s a letting go of heaviness, bitterness, resentments, negative thoughts and feelings towards the offender.

  • It’s a decision to replace negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts towards the situation.

  • Above all else, forgiveness is for you, not for the other person. It’s you choosing to feel better and getting on with your life.

What forgiveness is not:

  • It’s not forgetting the incident

  • It’s not overlooking, condoning, or excusing it.

  • It’s not necessarily reconciling or restoring a prior relationship.

Forgiving someone doesn’t always come naturally. It sometimes works in windows of opportunity. Your mind and body send you signals when you are ready to forgive. It’s up to you to listen and follow through. Consider the following, in looking for your own “window.”

Beyond what your offender does or doesn’t deserve, you deserve the heavy weight of unforgiveness off your shoulders.

You’re Emotionally and Physically Exhausted

When you don’t forgive someone, you carry around an array of negative emotions, body tensions, and disturbing thoughts. These emotions, sensations, and thoughts can get very, very heavy.

Resentment and bitterness are two emotions that often accompany unforgiveness. With these emotions come tension and rigidity throughout your body. Negative emotions will begin to affect your thoughts, as well. You may experience unusual irritability and find yourself short tempered with your friends and family.  The way you perceive the world might have even changed because of the incident. Instead of feeling open and accepting you find yourself feeling critical, closed minded and inflexible.

Your body speaks in its own language as it responds to the stress and discomfort associated with unforgiveness. It’s quite common to feel muscle aches for no apparent reason and feel fatigued all the time. You may even experience headaches and stomach discomfort more frequently now.

Here’s the thing, your mind and body communicate all day long. To understand the conversation, you have to pay attention to the way you feel or to your physical symptoms. It’s common for aches and pains to be a primary way your body talks to you.

It’s hurting. Something needs to change. It’s too full of negative emotions to feel good anymore. Basically, you’ve given your offender the right to keep hurting you and your body is screaming for you to protect it.

Through forgiveness, your body releases tension and rigidity. You may even find yourself breathing a sigh of relaxed relief.

Revenge Hasn’t Relieved Your Pain

Let’s be honest, when you feel emotionally wounded, revenge can seem like a great idea. You may have even daydreamed about how you would do it.

It might be that you actually attempted to exact revenge on your offender. Whether it was a physical act or through a vicious mental game, you tried your best to make them hurt. You expected it to feel good, but it didn’t really make you feel any better.

Now, you sort of want to throw your hands in the air, because if revenge didn’t work then what in the world will change how you feel? You just want to be okay. You want that feeling of peace and openness you once had.

This feeling of frustration is a sign that you’re ready to forgive.

The reality is that no amount of revenge will do the trick and now you know better. It’s time to forgive and finally let yourself feel better.

You’ve Reached Some Sense of Empathy

No matter what caused your pain, the dust of that emotional culmination will eventually settle.

It could have been abuse, betrayal, or any number of things that hurt you. Directly after the offense occurred, you might have thought your offender did it with the sole purpose of causing you pain.

As time passed, you may begin to see things with a wider perspective.

Maybe you discovered your offender was abused as a child or that there was some trauma to sway him or her down a wrong path. This wrong path, unfortunately, led to your emotional damage.

It doesn’t let them off the hook, but it does help you see things a little differently. This is the beginning of empathy emerging. More than anything, it solidifies your acceptance of reality. And, it restores the peace you are looking for.

This awful thing happened to your offender. Then, an awful thing happened to you. Amazingly enough, once a deeper understanding of the situation emerges, forgiveness surfaces. As anger, resentment and bitterness is replaced with the acknowledgment that you survived, you can begin to experience the relief you need. As this happens, you know that it’s time to move on with your life and be happy.

When you find yourself thinking this way, forgiveness is likely right outside the window. The important thing is to listen to what your body and mind are telling you. No doubt, they are saying the same thing, but you have to listen to find relief.

Find the relief you deserve!