You think you’re over it.
You pretend everything is ok.
But something isn’t quite right.
You have trouble sleeping. You can’t stop thinking about what happened. You can’t seem to move on.
We have a hard time forgiving people, some more than others. The reason is because many of us have faulty notions of what forgiveness is in the first place – like receiving an apology or being reconciled with the person.
We may not want to admit it, but sometimes when we’re looking to offer forgiveness, we want it to be because somebody else conceded first. But what you’re waiting for may never happen, especially when dealing with toxic people.
How can you know whether unforgiveness is eating you alive? Here are some warning signs and some ways you can reverse course:
1. You’re experiencing bursts of anger
If you’re struggling with unforgiveness, you’re likely bottling up your anger. Oftentimes, the person who is the recipient of the inevitable outburst is not the person who caused the stress or pain.
Be mindful when you start to feel anger building. Be aware of the source. If you catch yourself in the middle of an outburst, it’s never too late to do an about face. Apologize to the victim of your outburst. Take a deep breath. If you can, spend a few moments alone.
2. You’re petty and impulsive
When interacting with the person who you struggle to forgive, do you make snide remarks? Do you send them passive aggressive texts? Do you engage in mudslinging? And yet you’re still powerless because you have not forgiven them.
Hesitate before engaging with the person. Sometimes a moment is all you need to let your conscience kick in. Is your contemplated interaction going to improve things, or just take the edge off of your hurt for a moment before the regret comes?
3. You’re desperate to make them understand how you feel
Does your inner monologue sound like this?
If the person who caused me pain could only see what they’d done, they would want to say they were sorry.
It’s hard to swallow, but the person may never recognize what they’ve done. Acceptance and letting go are key aspects of forgiveness. A time-worn way to do this is to write them a letter that you do not intend to send. Do this with the ultimate intention of destroying it and letting go of its contents.
4. You’re compulsive
You can’t control the hurtful person, but you can control your environment. This can quickly become a negative spiral of compulsive activity. Maybe for you this means keeping your spaces spotless, checking social media repeatedly, or making unnecessary purchases. Maybe it involves comfort eating.
These behaviors give you the impression of being in control, but they will not change the result of your interactions with the person. These activities only distract you from getting to the heart of the problem.
In the midst of compulsive behavior, there is often a moment when you realize what is happening. Choose to pull away. What is important to you? Is it being reflected in the way you spend your time? Is what you’re doing helping you to heal?
5. You’re unable to reframe your experiences
When you allow another person to color your memories, the sight of a formerly favorite tchotchke or the smell of a once loved eatery will only bring you angst. The pleasant associations you once had are gone.
Acknowledge the part this association played in your life but don’t allow it to control you going forward. This may mean donating the offending item or hiding it away for a time. It may mean creating new, happy memories with a cherished friend in a place where you once found yourself overwhelmed with negativity.
Don’t let unforgiveness control you
Are you ready to let go of past hurts so you can move on with your life?
Then it’s time to begin letting go of unforgiveness.
Know that learning to forgive is a lifelong process. Just like love, forgiveness is a decision we make each day.
Yes, it’s hard, but don’t be discouraged.
Your fresh start can begin today.