Too angry to forgive? Many people feel too angry to even think about the concept of forgiveness!
What does the word “forgiveness” bring up for you?
Just reading it may trigger feelings of resistance, and memories of the ways you’ve been wronged, or wronged others.
Notice – right now, as you read this – how your body is responding to the word “forgiveness.” Do you feel a pit in the bottom of your stomach? Tension in your jaw? Pressure in your throat like you want to scream?
Perhaps you don’t feel angry or tense at all. The topic of forgiveness may bring about feelings of relief, a lightness in your body.
However you are responding, there’s no need to change it. Just observe, and read on.
Why does forgiveness trigger anger?
Well, there could be one or more different things going on…
- The harm done is too fresh. Perhaps it is still happening, or happened recently.
- Anger has built up for a long time, perhaps years.
- You are caught in ruminating thoughts about why what happened, happened, or why it sound never have happened.
- No one has validated the difficulties you have been through, which may be a reason for the ruminating thoughts – you are trying to figure out why it impacted you so deeply.
- What happened ruined your life.
Allow yourself to grieve.
In order to forgive, you first have to allow yourself to grieve what happened. That means not only thinking through the harm done, but also, FEELING it in your emotions and body.
This is a big step, and it can be really difficult. Before starting, I recommend developing a relationship with a therapist, particularly if you have a history of trauma or suicidal ideation.
You might try some of the following suggestions to feel your feelings:
- Telling your story to a trusted loved one and/or therapist
- Writing it down
- Reading about others who have gone through similar difficult experiences
- Joining a support group or network
- Crying it out
Decide what you want forgiveness to look like.
You may be hesitant to forgive because you worry it will mean…
- Letting a toxic person back into your life
- Compromising your values or beliefs
- Opening yourself up to more hurt down the road
Those worries are valid. That said, YOU have the power to determine the boundaries around your forgiveness.
So here are some possibilities for how forgiveness can look:
- A regular practice of letting go of anger and resentment in your own heart
- Calling, writing, or meeting the other person to state that you forgive them, and…
- Don’t want to talk to them ever again (if true, re-consider option 1)
- May want them back in your life someday, but not now
- Want them back in your life in some, specific ways (for example, seeing them at holidays, or talking on the phone occasionally)
- Want them back in your life completely
Remember: what you decide might change over time, and be different in response to different situations. That is perfectly okay!
Did this post help you? Still have questions about forgiveness? Let me know in the comments.
Rebecca Ogle is a licensed therapist who practices teletherapy in Illinois. Rebecca empowers therapy clients to cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and burnout using their natural strengths and inner wisdom.