Do you find it hard to forgive your partner or someone for things they have done in the past that has hurt you?

Forgiveness can be a hard and difficult topic to work with, and generally is one of the hardest actions for us to perform in our relationships.

How can we forgive someone when they are the culprit? They did something wrong to us.

Often when I ask people I am working with: ‘what does forgiveness mean, look and feel like to you’, the answer ranges from:

  • condoning what the person did
  • giving up my perspective / view
  • turning the other cheek
  • they are right/I am wrong
  • accepting what they did etc

This usually stems from childhood and how we were taught what forgiveness is. Often it is also underpinned by our spiritual beliefs (e.g. religion or faith) that we have been exposed to.

Forgiveness simply involves the following elements:
  • accepting what happened – you can’t go back and change it (this is different to condoning what happened).
  • accepting how it’s made you feel – angry, hurt, upset etc.
  • expressing it – sharing with the other person what they did, how it made you feel and putting down boundaries so it does not happen again.
  • moving forward – getting the closure you need for yourself to move on (an apology, clarity, understanding etc)

When we don’t get the closure we need, it can keep us stuck in the past for a lifetime, resulting in lots of resentment, unexpressed anger (pain) and emotional turmoil.

Forgiveness often not only entails forgiving the other person, sometimes we have to forgive ourselves in the process too for our contribution to the situation (e.g. we didn’t speak up, we didn’t say no, we didn’t do something etc).

Without realising it, we can be projecting our own anger, frustration and disappointment of ourselves onto the other person and blaming them for our contribution to the situation. This is often what keeps us stuck in the past and unable to move forward.

When you forgive yourself, you can accept what happened and find closure, you will be able to move forward and let go of what’s holding you back or keeping you stuck.

Are you still holding onto things from the past that are potentially keeping you stuck?

Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert and passionate advocate for creating healthy relationships at home, in the workplace, and against GBV, to co-create a more human connected world and positively impact people’s lives. Paula is also an international speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No.