When many people think about forgiveness they think about making up with a person. This often leads people to the question “What if it isn’t safe to forgive someone?” The simplest answer is that you can forgive someone without needing to ever see or speak to them again. Forgiveness is something that we do for ourselves not for anyone else. In fact, the best forgiveness is that which comes with really good boundaries.
It can be incredibly difficult to approach this topic of forgiveness. However, one way to start is with some kind of formal forgiveness practice. There are so many ways that you can go about this. You might turn to meditation practices, prayer, or other religious or spiritual traditions. The point is to start to set the intention for forgive yourself and the people who have harmed you.
Starting a formal practice like this does not mean that you need to approach the people who harmed you. It is really to just start to change your relationship with these people for yourself. Holding on to resentments is only hurting you and continuing to give the other person power. When I The Strength of Resentment
Resentments usually tell us where we need forgiveness. In many ways they help keep us safe because they generally stop us from interacting with those people who hurt us. By avoiding these people it usually means we cannot be hurt by them anymore. The problem with resentments is that it is only hurting us to continue to re-feel all of that pain. There is an old saying that it is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Rather than holding onto these resentments we can instead build solid boundaries. If someone has hurt you in such a way that you need to not see or speak to them that is ok! You have the right to cut people out of your life because they are toxic people. Building these boundaries does not interfere with forgiveness.
In fact, you often cannot even approach forgiveness until you have good boundaries. It can be very difficult to forgive someone who keeps hurting you over and over again. Once you have built a boundary you might be able to start the internal work forgiving the person for harms done.
Forgiving People, Not Actions
Sometimes people ask, what about things that are unforgivable? There are actions that do not need to be forgiven. However, you can still find it in your heart to forgive the person. You might do this by connecting with an image of the person as a child. If you start with this image it can be easier to realize someone’s humanity. No matter who they are or what they have done, all living beings deserve love, kindness, and forgiveness.
People We Can’t Ditch
The other problem that often comes up when talking about forgiveness with boundaries is the issue of people we need to see but do not want to. The first question to ask yourself is this. Do I really need to have this person in my life? It is a close family member who continues to cause immense harm we often have the perception that we must just swallow our pride and accept the situation.
You might take some time and really consider if this is someone who you need to cut out of your life or if it is truly necessary to interact with them. Sometimes the answer is that you must interact with them for some reason or another. If this is the case, the best way to start is to build very clear boundaries. You might decide you cannot ditch them but you can talk to them much less. Or that you will have someone else present when communicating with them.
Once you have set the boundaries and feel safe enough you can start that internal process of forgiveness. With this person it might mean practicing forgiveness in some way every time you walk away from a situation with them. It will be an ongoing and continuous process.
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