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"People think differently, based on their world view."

-Sue Smiley-

photo by Angela McMullen

Forgiving someone who has hurt us can be an unthinkable act, especially if the person is someone we love.

Unfortunately, most of us have been hurt by someone we love. And most have been hurt by at least one person through the course of life. Bullying, infidelity, spousal abuse, abuse suffered during childhood, slander, deception, and acts of crime are behaviors that are difficult to forgive. These hurtful acts impact emotional well-being and often lead to permanent trauma.

Trauma is an experience that we all have in common, ranging from mild to severe. Most people can recall a traumatic life event that involves another person.

For example, divorce and infidelity can inflict traumas that, when left untreated, create permanent impairment. There is also pain inflicted by strangers, those unkind words and behaviors that leave lasting imprints.

It Can Make You Sick

Research states that holding on to anger and resentment can have long-term, unhealthy consequences. These emotions steep within the cellular makeup of the human body and eventually manifest as illness.

How To Forgive

We cannot control what has happened, but we can process the event differently. Emotional pain can be paralyzing. Hanging on to anger can affect our way of being in this world. It can affect our connections to others, sabotage happiness, and cloud an otherwise joyful moment.

My journey in learning forgiveness has involved a long list of opportunities, and these incidences have come from different sources. In retrospect, some of the hurtful deeds were not intentional, and that fact has been a great healer.

Below are some methods I have used to forgive:

1. People do the best they can with what they know. Some know more than others.

2. In reference to the words of Sue Smiley, "people think differently, based on their world view," forgiving is possible through the realization that the perpetrator may have thought he did nothing wrong. We all see the world differently. What is hurtful to one person may be normal behavior to another.

3. Maybe we were supposed to learn from the person who hurt us. Often, those who hurt us teach the most valuable lessons.

4. In succumbing to these wounds, we are allowing the perpetrator to maintain control over us. We can thrive by accepting the event as part of life learning and move on, or we can hold ourselves captive in that space for the rest of our lives. The choice is ours.

5. Not everyone has the same values and standards. What may be right for one is unacceptable to another.

6. One cannot do better until one learns better.

7. One's health is dependent on forgiving others.

8. Consider the words of the late Dr. Wayne Dyer: "Change your thoughts, change your life."

Learning to forgive can be a lifelong process. I have learned that deciding to forgive is the first step. It can be a long process or a short process.

Forgiveness does not justify a hurtful action, nor does it erase it from memory. But it does heal the injury.

How does it feel?

Forgiveness feels like relief. To forgive is to breathe fresh air, to inhale the essence of truly being alive.

Further reading

Mayo Clinic Staff. 2017. Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness.

Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It.

Dyer, Dr. Wayne W. How I Discovered the Wisdom of the Tao.

Starletta Evans forgave the man who killed her 3-year old son. Read her story here.

Angela McMullen is a freelance writer who lives and writes in maritime Nova Scotia, where she is inspired by the rhythm of the Bay of Fundy tides, the pulse of long-standing forests, the expansive fields of the Annapolis Valley, the backdrop of North and South mountain ranges, and the distinction of the four seasons.

Angela's most recent work is a slim book of poetry that captures the pure essence of nature and her unwavering resilience. Infused with undertones of Italian influence, this collection of poetry speaks for itself.

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