A good remedy when you are harmed is forgiveness, but the question is how to forgive? When someone does something to harm you, or they neglected to do something you believe they should have, it is common to feel anger, resentment, or blame. The effect this has is to close someone out of your heart, but you also close off a part of yourself as well.

One factor that makes forgiveness difficult for some people is believing their emotions are beyond their control.

The second reason people have difficulty with forgiveness stems from inner conflicts on how to regard those who were particularly abusive to them. In such cases, the idea of forgiveness is seen as unreasonable and perhaps overwhelming. Forgiving someone who has done something severe seems like it is letting the person get away with something they should be held accountable for.

How to Forgive a Big Offense

Forgiveness is a deep inner release of holding negative feelings about what someone said or did. When people ask themselves how to forgive, they often recoil thinking forgiveness is condoning an offensive action, or requires releasing the person from paying a penalty for a violation. If someone has done something to harm another there may be consequences they have to face, but through forgiveness you free yourself.

When you say “I forgive you” you are really saying to yourself that you are not going to harbor hatred, resentment, or any further pain over what has happened. It is recognizing the past is past and cannot be changed, so it is really letting yourself go free.

Practice Forgiving on Smaller Issues

If the offense is a severe one, it may be too big a chunk to let go of all at once. Think of this example: If you were going to start lifting weights for exercise you wouldn’t go up to a 300 pound weight and try to lift it. Your inability to lift such a great weight could make you think if that’s what weight lifting is all about, it’s not for you.

On the other hand, if you start with 10, 20, or 30 pound weights you might find it fun and beneficial. With forgiveness you don’t want to start with the 300 pound weighty offenders – those who were very cruel, unjust, and abusive. 

You start your practice by developing an attitude of forgiveness with whatever capacity you feel comfortable doing until, in time, you can reach into the deeper pain and let it go. And keep in mind the forgiveness is really about your own healing and being gentle with yourself.

Health Benefits By Understanding How to Forgive

Recently I saw an article in a local paper about the physical effects of anger. This is not the kind of article you often see in mainline newspapers but I guess the study was so well designed and the outcome so profound it made it into many local papers. 

The article talked about how couples who showed hostility during marital fights experienced hardening of heart arteries. Psychologists did CT scans on the coronary arteries of 150 couples and found that some who had marital fights had scores so high they were advised to consult a doctor.

Anger, resentment, and guilt are the main issues addressed with forgiveness, but if you go for the grand forgiving challenge of some egregious offense, you may end up being more unkind and unforgiving of yourself because of not being able to let it all go. This will only serve to create more unfinished business and compound the problem.

So start practicing forgiveness and letting go of a clerk or waiter who is impatient or rude with you, or a friend who forgets something that was important to you, or a co-worker who is demanding. Think of your forgiveness project as an experiment in understanding what forgiveness is and you are practicing how to forgive.

Unless you live in a cave you will find all kinds of situations that you can practice on, because most people tend to be inconsistent and often violate your comfort zone or let you down.

Take a person who was insensitive to you in more of a minor way, and for a moment realize that you are considering forgiving the person even if you are not condoning their rudeness, insensitivity, selfishness, or abuse. 

The Source of Offensive Behaviors

If a person were living fully from their heart and soul they would usually be kind, loving, and considerate. But few people are in that kind of space 24 hours a day and they revert to ego-based reactions.

Just about everyone engages in behaviors they or others don’t like or agree with. Where did they learn these reactions? From being mistreated when they were growing up, from watching others, from inner insecurities and the need to control, and from decades practicing survival and getting what they want even if it is at the expense of others.

So now when someone mistreats you, you can know that they, too are human, and get caught in their perceptions and stories like you do, and they fall back on their defenses because that is all they know.

So you can open your heart and mercifully embrace their need to be rude or insensitive with compassion, understanding, and spaciousness. Recognize they are operating from a painful place within themselves and they apparently are not skilled at catching themselves before falling prey to their offensive behavior. This makes it much easier to answer the question for yourself on how to forgive such a person.

The only reason someone would cause you harm in anyway is if they are struggling and suffering in some way themselves. They may not be at the place where they can be patient, understanding, and fully kind all the time. So, from time to time they slip into a frame of mind that they probably don’t like either, and they say or do something from the closed place within themselves.

All you have to do is touch them with some understanding and a possibility of forgiveness.  And this opens you to a deeper truer place within yourself. 

Haven’t you ever been a little rude, impatient, or perhaps even indifferent to someone else?  When you reflect on this you may even cringe a little because you realize how you cut yourself off from yourself when you take these positions.

But when we meet others with openness, mercy, generosity, and love we feel good inside ourselves because these are qualities of our soul, and in expressing them we connect with the core of our inner peaceful presence. 

I have an in-depth 6 hour audio program titled, “Deep Forgiveness” that explores this subject much more deeply and leads you through guided sessions to help you deepen your forgiveness of yourself and others.