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I was seven years old when I walked into the living room and found all my Barbies with short hair.
One of my cousins spent the day with Mom while I was at school. Because my little cousin was bored and whining, Mom gave her my Barbies and a few other toys. Apparently, she found a pair of scissors and cut all their long, shiny hair.
When I walked in and saw that calamity, I had an emotional breakdown. I felt anger for the first time and became familiar with the idea of forgiveness. (I think I could not forgive my little cousin till many years later).
The truth is, whether we’re seven years old or 40, forgiveness is never easy. And no matter how much we try to prevent or avoid hurt, we will always be susceptible to a certain degree of disappointment. We’re human beings with many different emotions, so being consumed by resentment is natural—but we all know how unhealthy and destructive it is.
And just like we can’t prevent ourselves from getting hurt, we also can’t always prevent hurting someone else. We all have different needs and make different choices, so avoiding hurt is like dodging a bullet: impossible.
Someone has recently hurt me, and although I tried hard to avoid the associated pain, I knew I was “dodging a bullet.” I can’t stop myself from feeling all of my emotions—the good and especially the bad—but I can lessen my pain by opting to forgive the person who has betrayed my trust.
Before discussing the ways that can help us move on, we need to admit that we’re angry and not able to forgive. Usually, when we’re in the midst of an emotional sh*tstorm, we act normal and insist that we have forgiven those who have hurt us. However, if we look deep within, we can’t stop replaying the hurt. We think of ways to get back at them for what they did to us. We wish things were different. We…We…We…
That said, be honest with yourself about how you feel. If you can’t forgive someone, it’s okay; we’ve all been there. What matters is having the willingness to move on and treat the entire situation with awareness and compassion.
There are many ways to forgive someone who has hurt us, but I’ve found these two to be extremely helpful:
1. You’re not the problem; your ego’s the problem. When we get hurt, our ego tends to run the show. “You hurt me.” We focus on the person hurting us and get stuck in a vicious loop where we stop seeing the bigger picture. A bruised ego is difficult to manage, and it’s never satisfied; it always wants more. This is why we become incapable of forgiving: our ego thinks receiving an apology, getting closure, or moving on is not good enough.
But deep inside, we know that forgiveness is good enough because it grants us inner peace and comfort. The only way we can keep our ego out of the way is to remove the “I” and look at our situation with an open heart and mind. Know that whoever hurt you acted in the best way they knew. Their “best way” might be completely disturbing to us, but we can’t force people to be someone they’re not or make choices that align with ours.
Your emotions are still valid and what they’ve done is still unacceptable, but try to see it from their own lens. Sympathize with them, instead of judging them. I know it’s tough to not associate the hurt directly with us, but if we want to forgive someone, we need to separate our desires from the hurtful action.
2. Forgive yourself first. “But I did nothing wrong!” I know. I’m not suggesting finding faults in our behavior; I’m suggesting finding the “weaknesses.” When someone hurts us, we tend to blame ourselves for making poor choices, which might have led to the hurt. We beat ourselves up for “letting them in,” or for “trusting them,” or “for opening up,” and so on.
The biggest part of not being able to forgive someone else is because we haven’t been able to forgive ourselves. We need to drop the “what ifs” and focus on what’s happening now. Just like whoever hurt us didn’t know better, we didn’t know better either.
That said, forgive yourself for what you “allowed.” We can’t change what we did, but we can choose what to do now. And now is a good time to choose to move on and wish whoever has hurt us well.