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How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You & Release the Negativity Inside

Carrying around emotional pain and resentment is always difficult. So, that’s why it’s important to learn how to forgive someone who has hurt you.

how to forgive someone who hurt you

For some reason, forgiveness seems to be one of the most difficult things for a human being to do. It’s almost like people think that if they hold on to the resentment and dwell in the negativity, somehow it will undo the past. Well, you already know this, but it won’t. If you really want to hold on to your sanity, you need to know how to forgive someone.

What forgiveness is and why it matters

As the Buddha once said, “Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” While that might sound ridiculous, think about it for a second. It’s true!

What good does it do to hold on to the anger? You might think it’s doing some good like punishing the other person, but it definitely is not.

Forgiveness is about kindness and giving mercy to the people who have caused us harm – even if they don’t deserve to be forgiven. It’s not that you should find excuses for their bad behavior or pretend it didn’t happen. And there’s no quick-fix formula that everyone can use to forgive.

Instead, forgiveness is a process. While it has many steps, they aren’t always linear. You might take a few steps forward and then fall a few steps back later on. In fact, it’s a process that sometimes never ends.

Regardless, it is definitely worth putting in the effort to forgive. We can actually feel better about ourselves when we reach the point of letting go of our resentment. If we can do that, it means we have found our inner strength. [Read: How to find happiness within yourself and manifest a better tomorrow]

Forgiveness can also stop us from saying things to ourselves that we shouldn’t. When we are harmed, sometimes it makes us feel like a victim. We might tell ourselves how defeated we are or that we’re not worthy. When you stop saying things like that to yourself, that is inner growth.

When we forgive other people, it can heal us. It will help us move forward in life with more meaning. Forgiving others has a lot of positive psychological benefits for the person who is doing the forgiving. It can help with depression, anger, and anxiety. [Read: The rules of life and 22 secrets to never be unhappy ever again]

Look at your inner pain

An important first step on the path to forgiveness is to figure out who has hurt you – and how. Sure, this seems obvious. But just because you are hurting doesn’t mean that the action that hurt you was inherently wrong. 

For example, if your partner is imperfect and it’s causing you angst, then they are not being that way on purpose. It’s just who they are. They probably aren’t purposely doing things in order to hurt you – even though it might feel like they are. [Read: When people hurt you – How to deal with the pain and respond to them]

So, you need to really examine the people around you and their actions in your life. Look at everyone from your parents to your co-workers. Then, rate how much have they hurt you. And what have they done? Was it withholding love and affection? Was it physical harm? 

There are a lot of different forms of emotional pain that you might be holding on to. Common forms are unhealthy anger, lack of trust, self-loathing, or an overall negative worldview. The more hurt that has accumulated, the more important it is to forgive – even though that sounds impossible sometimes. 

Whatever it was, you need to acknowledge your inner pain. When you do this, it helps you start on that path to letting go of your resentment. You need to reach a place of emotional healing. [Read: How to make someone feel guilty and understand the pain they caused you]

The importance of empathy

When we are hurt by someone, we usually can only see our own pain – not theirs. So, as difficult as it might be, you have to have some empathy or at least approach them with an open heart. [Read: How to develop empathy and master the art of growing a real heart]

If you know them relatively well, then look at their life *the one who harmed you*. Do they have any emotional wounds that they carry around with them? If so, then you should start there. Maybe their parents harmed them and did a lot of damage to them psychologically.

When you approach looking at them with some empathy, then you can see their imperfections and psychological suffering. You can see them as vulnerable, and that they are suffering too – not just you. 

Understanding that we are all imperfect and that we have this emotional pain from our past can open the door to starting to learn how to forgive someone. [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

Why it’s so difficult to learn how to forgive someone

Why is it so hard for us humans to forgive?

Well, there are many reasons. But one of them is that we have expectations. Yes, you heard that right. Expectations of other people’s behavior. And when those expectations are violated, then we feel hurt and offended.

We’re not saying that other people don’t do a lot of bad things. They do. And they vary in degrees of seriousness. So, don’t think that we’re trying to tell you to stick around in an abusive relationship – we’re not. In situations like that, you just need to remove yourself.

But if the wrongdoing is not of gargantuan proportions, and it’s relatively mundane in the grand scheme of things, then you need to learn to let go and forgive. [Read: 12 things we all do that actually makes our life much worse]

How to forgive someone

We don’t have a magic wand that we can hand you for you to suddenly become a master at forgiveness like Mother Teresa. But, we do have some tips for how to forgive someone that will definitely help you move on and find happiness again.

1. Think of them as a child

When a child does something wrong, we usually have the attitude of, “Well, I don’t like it, but they’re still learning so they’re doing the best they can.”

We hate to break it to you, but some adults aren’t very wise or mature. So, they are probably performing on the level of a child. That’s why you should think of them as someone who doesn’t know any better. That doesn’t mean you have to condone the negative behavior, however. [Read: Emotional immaturity – How to recognize them and help them grow up]

2. Think of the grand scheme of things

Are you angry because your live-in love never does the laundry? Or your best friend didn’t call you the moment she read your Facebook status update? Get over it.

Stuff like that is not a big deal in the greater scheme of life. Talk to them, and move past it. Holding on to anger over petty things doesn’t help anyone – especially you. [Read: How to stop being so sensitive about everything all of the time]

3. Talk to them

Some people just fester in silence. What good does that do? Maybe the person who you’re angry with doesn’t even know they did something wrong!

So, you have to talk to them about it. And we don’t mean fight… we mean TALK. Talk rationally. Only then can you come to some sort of resolution. It’s the first step in learning how to forgive someone. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

4. Take responsibility for your part

You probably don’t want to hear it, but sometimes, it’s not entirely the other person’s fault. Many times, we had a part to play.

So, do some self-reflection and be mature enough to admit if you did or said something that contributed to this situation. [Read: 19 signs you’re being the selfish one in the relationship]

5. Be kind

When people are angry, it’s difficult for them to be kind. But if you have everyone’s best interest in mind, and you want to let go of the resentment, then speak and act kindly to the person who wronged you.

“An eye for an eye” is just bull. It never solves anything. So, put on your kindness cap and approach the situation with love.

6. Think good thoughts

When we’re so caught up in anger and resentment, sometimes it’s hard to think of anything good. But, you need to try.

The future isn’t a disaster. Things will get better. Be an optimist and things will turn out a whole lot better that way. [Read: How to be more positive – 24 steps to a happy and dramatic life shift]

7. Don’t take it personally

When learning how to forgive someone, this is vital. Too often, we think that everything that everyone else does is on purpose. Or that they went through some long, drawn-out thought process that included plotting and planning strategies for how to hurt you.

Usually, that’s not true *although sometimes it is*. Instead remember this… other people’s actions reflect who they are, not who YOU are. [Read: How to recognize and stop selfish people from hurting you]

8. Don’t be offended

Who offends you? The other person? No! You do. You’re probably confused by that. But when you get offended, you are giving away your power to them. You are allowing their behavior to disturb your peace of mind.

Don’t let them do that to you! Refuse to be offended by their actions. Yes, it’s easier said than done. But it’s possible. [Read: How to deal with negative people and stop them from sapping your energy]

9. Don’t live in the past

You might be thinking that if you had only “caught” them back then. Or that if you had “noticed the signs earlier” this wouldn’t have happened. Or if you didn’t do XYZ it could have been prevented. Stop it. You can’t live in the past, only in the now. So, think toward the future.

10. Try not to judge

Again, it’s easier said than done. But do you like it when other people judge you for doing something they didn’t like *especially if you didn’t mean to?* Of course not.

So sometimes you need to cut people some slack and not judge so harshly. Remember, we are all human. And no one is perfect. [Read: The most powerful ways to be less critical of the people around you]

11. Remember why you liked/loved them to begin with

When a friend or loved one wrongs you, it hurts more deeply because they are the last people we would expect it from. But as we said above, they’re human.

So, don’t dwell on what went wrong or what you hate about them. Instead, remember their good qualities and why you were drawn to them in the first place.

12. Meditate

You may think this sounds cheesy, but there are many scientific studies about the benefits of meditation. It greatly reduces your stress levels, which are undoubtedly running high when you are angry and resentful at someone.

So, get a guided meditation digital download or simply sit and quiet your mind and focus on positive things.

13. Ask yourself what you can learn from it

Many times, we can learn valuable lessons from the bad things that happen to us. It’s unfortunate that they occur, but you have to look for the life lesson in it.

It may not be easy to do, but if you do learn something, then remember it for the rest of your life so history doesn’t repeat itself. [Read: 36 life lessons to instantly transform your life and draw in happiness]

14. Accept that it can’t be undone

Another famous lesson from Buddha is “It is resistance to what is, that causes your suffering.” If you keep getting stuck in the fact that you want to undo what was done, just stop.

Stop resisting it and start accepting it. Not condoning it, just accepting that it happened. Then move forward.

15. Forgive them for YOURSELF

Usually, we think that if we forgive someone, we are doing it for their benefit. However, you should really do it for yourself!

What we mean by that is… carrying resentment around is exhausting, isn’t it? Don’t you just wish you could unload it and be done with it? Well, guess what? You can! It’s just a decision. Love yourself enough to let it go.

[Read: Should you forgive and forget? 15 guidelines to follow]

Learning how to forgive someone who has hurt you is never easy, but it can be done. It all starts with a decision to move past the negativity. It is definitely worth it.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...