Forgiveness is one of the biggest challenges we face in our lives. More often than not, forgiving others is hard because we see their actions as a direct reflection of what is lacking in us. We start to wonder if we did something to deserve such behavior.
People’s actions typically trigger us and our own deep wounds and insecurities. And that, in turn, makes us lash out. It makes sense. It’s almost justified in some strange way.
However, the way someone acts is a direct reflection of who they are – not who you are. Whatever they choose to do is a representation of how they feel about themselves. That ex who cheated on you? They probably feel inadequate, unworthy, and dissatisfied with themselves. That self-involved friend? They probably aren’t self-aware enough to recognize their egoism.
However, it’s important to note that this is not an excuse for anyone else’s behavior. Regardless, I really do think once you have a grip on the fact that everyone around you is making decisions to protect their own ego, life gets easier. You stop trying to control everyone around you and start taking responsibility for yourself. You see yourself as a shield against anyone’s behavior because you know it doesn’t define you and you learn the power of forgiving others.
This has been a pivotal realization in my life. After applying these principles in my relationships – platonic and non-platonic – I gained a sense of power no one could steal from me. Hence, I’ve compiled a list of steps that may help you or someone you know to learn forgiving others and have empathy.
1. Recognize you are responsible for your behavior and your behavior only
Give up the need to control other people. You are responsible for yourself and yourself only. This will help you to let go of your anxiety and the potential worry about who is doing what to you. You don’t control others, period.
2. Understand everyone has wounds they don’t talk about or don’t know about
This is vital. Every. Single. Person. Has. An. Ego. No matter how self-aware or spiritually ‘awake’ they are. This ego drives the way they act, why they might not open up, and quite frankly I think the ego represents the ‘damage’ we all have undergone. The more you process your trauma, the less you relate to your ego. The less you react. The easier it is to forgive.
3. Remember that someone else’s actions will probably trigger your own wounds
This goes hand in hand with identifying with your ego. For example, I didn’t receive as much love as I would have liked during my childhood, therefore I tend to react when people withhold their attention and affection from me. Simply understanding that link has made me better equipped for life.
4. Have a guideline on how not to behave and treat people
Someone’s bad behavior can be helpful in deciding what kind of person you don’t want to be. It also shows you how not to act towards others. Make sure to remember that there is an explanation for everyone’s choices and behaviors, whether it’s conscious or unconscious. You may never know why, but (again) it is not your job to do so. Send healing to them.
5. Remember: everything serves a purpose
I know people hate this particular saying. But please understand that there is a bigger plan at work for you here. The Universe/God/whichever higher overarching power you may believe in helps you in the best way it can. Just trust. Everything is happening for you, not to you.
6. Lastly, forgiving others does not mean reconciliation
It’s okay to be angry and use another person’s behavior as a lesson. Again, it doesn’t equate to letting them walk all over you. It does, however, mean that you should set up better boundaries for yourself, choose more like-minded people, and/or end relationships. Forgiveness means moving on, but with grace, empathy, and love.
Using these principles doesn’t make you a doormat. Instead, it makes you a wise, introspective badass who takes responsibility for their actions. It shows the world that you don’t need to put others down, no matter the circumstances. (Yes, even when they have wronged you!) It shows you love yourself enough to not poison your own mind with hatred and resentment. Quite frankly, who wouldn’t want to be known as an unbreakable, resilient, and mature adult? I know I would!