We can’t be happy without our relationships. And it is inevitable in relationships that you eventually find yourself in a position that calls for forgiveness. I want you to think for a moment about a relationship in which you are struggling to forgive, and consider the words you’re reading right now to be written just for you.
Years ago, I found myself deeply hurt by someone close to me and absolutely stuck and unable to move on. There was one mental shift that transformed my ability to forgive in that situation and it is this:
I decided to stop taking the offense personally.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. “How can I not take something personally when the person intentionally did it to me?” At least, that was my first question when a friend first suggested it. I brushed it off as unrealistic. Then she gave me a copy of what became one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements. One of the agreements was simply this: “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…”
I didn’t really understand it at first, but I wanted to. I wanted desperately to let go, to be able to forgive and move on. So I prayed about it, I talked to friends about it, I journaled about it, and I finally started to get it: What others choose to do, even if they try to do it to me, is really not about me. It’s about them. It’s about their emotional condition, their spiritual condition, their own hurt and pain. It doesn’t excuse their behavior. It doesn’t make it OK. But it does help explain that there is a reason for it. It explains that I cannot change them, and therefore, I must let go.
Whoever has hurt you, consider this: If you wait for them to apologize or feel remorse before you can let go of your grudge, move forward, or get your joy back, you might be waiting for the rest of your life. Refuse to allow a person who hurt you to have that much power over you and your emotions. Free yourself from being held hostage to how they choose to react or apologize before you are able to just be free.
It is definitely easier said than done, and I have to tell you, in the most difficult forgiveness scenario I ever faced, I wasn’t able to do it alone. I literally prayed and said to God, “I can’t forgive this person, so I need you to change my heart because I don’t even know how.” And miraculously, within a matter of about three weeks, my heart softened. I released them, and believe it or not, I even began to pray for them. I recognized that they had some serious issues. I would never be able to say anything to them that would fix those issues, but I could have mercy. I could set a very strong boundary to protect myself from more hurt. Yet I didn’t need to feel a grudge, I didn’t need to seek revenge, I no longer needed to be angry.
The person who most needs the act of forgiveness is the forgiver, because it frees you. You are no longer bound up in the toxic emotions of grudges and revenge. Don’t take it personally. Hurting people hurt people. It is what it is. Take back control of your emotions, your peace and your joy.
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