If a poisonous snake bites you, the bite can kill you, right?
It’s not the bite itself, but the venom inside of your body, that’s fatal.
Forgiveness works the same way. We can fight with a person we love. A friend might deeply hurt our feelings. Perhaps we’re neglected by a relative. All of these things hurt, yes. But none have to cause long-term harm if we harness the power of forgiveness.
Here are some techniques to try when you need to forgive someone, especially someone who’ll never say they’re sorry:
1. Peace into the present.
Whether you realize it or not, if you hold on to resentment, you’re living in the past. Because those “hurts” happened in your past, right? Can even just this truth free you up a little? When we’re fully present today, now, there is no past or future. And nobody’s making us feel bad.
2. Flip your focus from others to yourself.
When we allow someone to upset us, we grant them tremendous power over our well-being. Instead of thinking of the person who has wronged you, can you switch your attention to you? Can you sit with your emotions and not judge them? Can you say, “Yes, I feel angry/disappointed/screwed over… but I can choose to feel something better. I can feel/think about/focus on something else.”
Because all that matters is you. And the good news is, your thoughts are one of the few things that you have 100 percent control over.
3. Take responsibility for your feelings.
Wayne Dyer said, “By changing the way you choose to perceive the power that others have over you… you’ll see a bright new world of unlimited potential for yourself… you’ll know instantly how to forgive and let go of anything.” This means that when we recognize that it’s us, and only us, that determines how we feel, we gain a superpower. We lose the victim story. We can release judgment and blame. When we own how we feel, we can decide to feel good. And feeling resentful becomes an insane, self-harming choice.
4. Own your part.
In many of life’s ups and downs, we’re quick to jump to judgment without assuming any personal accountability. Let’s say your sister-in-law is always making digs at you. Did you write her off as a moron the first time you met, so she only gets your sarcastic, icy side? If your boss is currently micro-managing you, is it because you dropped the ball the last couple of months because of your breakup (and you kinda know it)? If someone else is solely responsible for your misery, then you have to wait for that person to change before you can be happy. But what if you could change, now, in an instant?
Doesn’t that feel like a relief?
5. Stop looking to feel slighted.
Be honest now: Don’t we all know those people who walk through life looking for occasions to be offended? Can this also be you, at least sometimes? Do you look for a bad driver to swear at, a colleague to snub you, a big opportunity to fall through because you worry that someone has something against you?
When we lose our openness to be offended, we’re essentially asserting our power, saying “I have control over how I’m going to feel. And today, I feel good.” There’s nothing more mighty than that.
6. Apply a loving lens.
This allows us to be thankful for all of life’s (difficult!) lessons. The Dalai Lama once said, “The enemy is a very good teacher.” Taking whatever has hurt you as a lesson will have you moving on at lightning speed. Are you upset because your S.O. does not treat you with enough respect? What does this teach you? Do you need to be less tolerant of people’s bad behavior? To be more assertive? To love yourself more and others will follow? When we see our life’s experiences through a loving, patient lens, our life’s lessons are learned quickly.
Finally, ask yourself: Would you rather forgive or feel like sh*t?
Let’s be real for a second. If you don’t forgive, your only other option is not to. When has hating on someone ever made you feel good (for long)? It doesn’t. And it never will. Failing to forgive quickly uses up your limited daily energy and makes you feel mad, powerless, even a little crazy. No one goes through life without suffering. But some of us extract the venom and live.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!