How to Forgive

DenaSeptember 18, 2009 | forgiveness

“Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love.” —Gandhi

At some point in every person’s life, they will be betrayed. Human beings are flawed creatures. We make mistakes. It is your ability to forgive that will determine whether these betrayals destroy you or make you stronger. Holding grudges, seeking revenge, and practicing hatred will prevent you from experiencing true joy in your life.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” —Mark Twain

In this post I will to teach you how to become a forgiving person and how to cope with the devastating pain of betrayal, grow from it, and truly forgive.

1. Betrayal — The Initial Shock
The initial shock of betrayal is one of the most emotionally painful experiences that you will live through. If you have already gone through a deep betrayal in your own life, then you already know this to be true. Sometimes the feelings are so intense that they are comparable to the death of a loved one. This pain is very serious and it is okay to feel that way. Do not feel guilty for your feelings of pain, hurt, and even disgust. Allow those feeling to flow through you. Grieve for as long as you need to. Then, recognize that emotional pain is conquerable and begin your journey forward.

2. The Other Person is a Fallible Human Being, Just Like You
There are all sorts of betrayals. Husbands cheat on wives. Sons steal money from mothers. Friends share humiliating secrets. Strangers rape strangers. I am not condoning any of these actions. I am not saying that these things are okay. They are not. But, what I am saying is that you can not allow another person’s actions to destroy you. And, all human beings, including you, are capable of making mistakes.

As human beings, we suffer great emotional pain and at times we allow that emotional pain to destroy us. We also use that emotional pain as an excuse to destroy the person that caused it. The reality is that it is unnecessary. This post is about forgiving others and forgiving ourselves.

Please take a moment to read the excerpt below from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements. This excerpt is one of the things that radically transformed my own beliefs about forgiveness.

“How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake. The rest of the animals pay once for every mistake they make. But not us. We have a powerful memory. We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find ourselves guilty, and we punish ourselves. If justice exists, then that was enough; we don’t need to do it again. But every time we remember, we judge ourselves again, we are guilty again and we punish ourselves again, and again, and again. If we have a wife or a husband he or she also reminds us of the mistake, so we can judge ourselves again, punish ourselves again, and find ourselves guilty again. Is this fair?

How many times do we make our spouse, our children, or our parents pay for the same mistake? Every time we remember the mistake, we blame them again and send them all the emotional poison we feel at the injustice, and then we make them pay again for the same mistake. Is that justice?” —Don Miguel Ruiz

Recognize that it is not your job — and you have no right — to repeatedly punish another person or yourself for making a mistake. As a human being, it is only your job to forgive, to love, to heal, and to grow.

Revenge — There are No Winners

“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” —Gandhi

Repeatedly punishing the person that caused you pain (even if that person is you) is not productive. It will only cause you to be stuck in an infinite cycle of pain.

“Vengeance is having a videotape planted in your soul that cannot be turned off. It plays the painful scene over and over again inside your mind… And each time it plays you feel the clap of pain again… Forgiving turns off the videotape of pained memory. Forgiving sets you free.” —Author Unknown

Say this out loud: Punishing him/her for hurting me is not going to make things better. It is not going to teach him/her a lesson. However, if I forgive and show him/her what kindness and love truly are, then just maybe, I will teach him/her something. Repeat this over and over until it finally sinks in.

3. Forgiveness Will Heal Your Soul and Sometimes, Your Relationship
The truth is that people make mistakes. You yourself will make hundreds of mistakes in your lifetime. No person is perfect and when you truly love another, you accept them for their flaws — the beautiful ones and the terrible ones.

“Every human relationship will suffer hurt. Thus, we all need to become better forgivers and confessors. That ability to reconcile and spirit of humbleness will prove the depth of your love and commitment. The components of love, forgiveness and commitment are as necessary to trust in a relationship as is honesty. Forgiveness gives you the chance to start over and trust another fallible human being again.” —Author Unknown

From the bottom of my heart I can say that several of my deepest and most rewarding relationships exist with people that have betrayed me at some point. When you care enough about a person that you are willing to forgive them their mistakes — that is true love. Relationships are like bones, when they heal they are stronger for it. Through the journey of betrayal, pain, and forgiveness you will learn a great deal about the other person and about yourself. Once you get past the pain and allow the love back in, your communication will improve. Your love and trust will be even stronger than before. Forgiveness is a gift and the person that you have forgiven will know that and be grateful.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” —Gandhi

If you can forgive and move forward, you are truly a strong individual. Some people equate forgiveness or second chances with weakness. Those people are wrong. Forgiveness takes strength. It means putting your ego aside and allowing love to fill up the spaces that were once filled with pain. Only strong people can truly forgive.

4. Moving Forward is the Only Option
Forgiveness is a journey and like all journeys it takes time. You will stumble. The pain of betrayal will become so great at times that it will take you down. Some days will feel like an uphill climb. But, I promise you that the reward of strength and forgiveness will far outweigh the pain of hatred and vengeance. You must remind yourself everyday, every hour if necessary, that by punishing another (or yourself) you will continue to suffer. Only through forgiveness and time will you heal from the pain of betrayal.

As with all aspects in life, you have a choice. You can choose love or you can choose pain.

“Suffering makes you feel safe because you know it so well.

But there is really no reason to suffer. The only reason you suffer is because you choose to suffer. If you look at your life, you will find many excuses to suffer, but a good reason to suffer you will not find. The same is true for happiness. The only reason you are happy is because you choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice, and so is suffering.” —Don Miguel Ruiz

Like happiness, forgiveness is also a choice.

Some people are quick to forgive, some hold grudges for awhile, and still others find that once betrayed they can never forgive. In my own life, my views on betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness have changed drastically. When I was younger, I prided myself on being a vindictive person. I was proud to say that I would seek and carry out revenge on anyone that crossed me. When I was hurt deeply, I would plan out and exact detailed plots of revenge. As a young Catholic girl, I knew the Biblical phrase, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” I carried the sentiment close to my heart and used it to justify even the most terrible actions. Sometimes in exacting revenge upon one person, I hurt another in the process. I did so without remorse.

At this point in my life, my thoughts and actions on the subject could not be more different. If I hold any Biblical sentiment close to my heart now, it is “Turn the other cheek.” A few years ago, I decided to begin practicing Kindness as my religion. In doing so, many aspects of my life changed but one of the greatest changes was my ability to forgive. In practicing kindness to others, my own happiness grew infinitely. When others betrayed me, I learned to forgive. I learned that holding anger in my heart and seeking revenge accomplished nothing. It did not teach the other person a lesson and mostly it poisoned my own soul.

I ask you to learn from my journey. Choose forgiveness. Choose love. Choose light.

Comments (12)

  • Karen

    September 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I couldn't agree with you more here Dena… Fogiveness is such a diffucult task sometimes, but so necessary.

    It's the same with people that chose to be racist, or hate for any reason… it only hurts you more.

    Wonderful, inspiring message!

  • Ken Kurosawa

    September 18, 2009 at 4:27 pm



    Thank you so much for sharing this with the world.


  • Enemy of Debt

    September 19, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Dena, this is a wonderful post! Forgiveness is number one on my list of things practive regularly. You know they say forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of how great it feels to the person doing the forgiving. I have to agree with that statement as I have had to forgive and be forgiven many times in my life.

  • Anonymous

    September 19, 2009 at 11:45 am

    It's so easy to 'know' what to do… so difficult to actually do it. Thank you for your ability to transform 'kind' yet metaphysical or intangible ideas into actual, PRACTICAL words of wisdom that people can understand, USE and feel connected with. You are SO talented in your ability to relate and communicate… keep it up cuz… xoxoxo

  • Dena

    September 25, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    @Karen – Absolutely & like many difficult things, it is worth it in the end. Thank you.

    @Ken – Thanks for your kind words!

    @Enemy of Debt – Thanks you so much for your thoughts. Yes, I think we all have and that's what makes us human.

    @Anonymous (Kimberly) – Your thoughts & approval mean the world to me. XO

  • Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life

    September 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

    YOU and this post, come into my life at exactly the right moment…Thank you

  • Dena

    September 30, 2009 at 11:56 am

    @Dawn – I am so glad that my blog has helped or inspired you in some way. I appreciate your reading & please know that I am sending love & positive thoughts your way!

  • Letting Go of the Past: Forgiveness : evolution you

    March 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    […] full review of the book in the coming weeks but for now I want to focus on one important element—forgiveness of the […]

  • Dena Botbyl

    March 8, 2011 at 1:02 am

    evolution you | How to Forgive #forgiveness #love

  • Nicole

    October 26, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I stumbled upon your blog from another blog. I don’t remember which one. Maybe Gala Darling’s. In any case, I am so ecstatic to have found this treasure! I am suffering from depression from multiple events and while I have always wanted to be rid of it, I haven’t been able to find my way out. Your blog is so enlightening and inspirational to me. You bring out simple ideas that make a huge impact on me. Thank you, thank you! I am beginning to see the light!

    1. Anonymous

      November 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks so much, Nicole!  I am so proud of you for the progress that you are making & grateful that you’ve found me.  Be sure to check out my About page for more that may help you on your path.  xoxo

  • Larisa Asaeli

    May 19, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Thanks so much for your posting. A friend shared with me today and it has been the answer to prayer as I struggle to forgive someone close to me. God bless you!

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