How To Fake Forgiveness Until You Feel It


Freedom is what we do with what is done to us. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

I'm faking forgiveness with someone close to me. I'm forgiving-ish but at the same time keeping pure awful dysfunction away until-if the person gets better.

I'm on the forgiving path.

Forgiveness is a gradual process so sometimes you have to fake it before you can feel it.

In talking to my step-mom about the person who hurt me she told me not to invest much energy into the awful unresolved issues of others.

Irrational people can't hear.

At some point I wrote an email to the person to tell her her actions were unacceptable and hurtful. I used clear boundary words like, "I love you but this is not okay."

I didn't sling poison arrows with my words even though I wanted to. Before I hit send I re-read my email five times, then I stomped and jogged and cursed. (This really helps. See below.)

With a layer of crud off of me I managed some pretend calm in my email. Still, the person came back with a verbal machete, with more irrational anger.

So I ended our futile back and forth with, "This isn't working. You can't hear me no matter what I say. I love you and wish you all the best. We need to part ways." Thankfully she accepted my retreat and slinked away into silence.

Love isn't always the answer

Many of the world's most revered spiritual advisers suggest that love, in broad terms, is the greatest healer. We are to sing of love, to radiate love and to read of love's universal power as a pathway towards forgiveness.

I love the word love, but it's so often thrown around now and therefore diluted, it doesn't help me to forgive.

Love takes a while. It has to be earned, often re-earned. Love in my view, does have conditions. So if you try to push yourself into feeling love to forgive someone it might never happen.

In spiritual terms I like the word grace as an action word to begin to feel forgiveness. Grace is more concrete and realistic because it means to offer unearned forgiveness from the get go. It's part of the process towards genuine forgiveness.

For me grace sounds like this in my head: "You don't deserve forgiveness but I'm going to give it to you anyway because I will feel better." Grace can be a radically selfless and selfish act.

How to forgive when you don't feel forgiving

1. Decide

People who forgive make a conscious decision to let go. They decide that to forgive is more beneficial to their emotional and physical health than to hold on to anger, hurt and resentment.

"We don't like admitting to the fact that some petty part of ourselves doesn't want to forgive people," writes Kate Swoboda. "We say we "don't know how," and that might be true, but the other truth is that some part of us often doesn't want to forgive.

We don't want to admit that this part exists, because of all the stories it piles on top of us -- stories that we're mean, petty, judgmental people.

Of course, we're expressing mean, petty, judgmental behaviors when we refuse to forgive.

It's not intentional. It's just that we've been hurt, and forgiveness feels like letting someone off the hook, or pretending that it was okay that they did what they did."

2. Move the anger out

People who forgive know how to release explosive feelings in ways that don't harm others.

In the initial stage of rage and hurt, when you're seething with anger so palpable it nearly vibrates, expend your emotional energy through exercise.

"Exercise, even a single bout of it, can have a robust prophylactic effect against the buildup of anger" writes Ken Eisold, Ph.D. ("Phys Ed -- Can Exercise Moderate Anger?" The New York Times Sunday Magazine)

3. Curse

Admittedly this isn't for everyone.

But when I'm off the charts upset sometimes I scream ear curdling curse-filled stream-of-consciousness rants, not to the person, but to the air. I've found cursing helps me instantly release anger.

"Swearing enables us to get back at bad people or situations without having to resort to violence. Instead of punching someone in the face or worse, we channel and disarm our anger by swearing instead," writes Neel Burton, MD.

4. Think of one good trait and empathize

Think of at least one good trait about the person. Are they funny? Smart? Generous? Also try to empathize. You don't necessarily need to empathize with why the person hurt you, but think of a situation where you did something similar. If the person lied think of a time you lied. Why did you do it?

Look for common ground because research suggests that the process of empathy and forgiveness often work hand and hand.

5. Establish boundaries

There's a fine line between being forgiving and being a doormat.

And so the vaccine against putting up with toxic people and making their bad behavior feel like your normal day to day is to know what healthy feels like.

When you develop boundaries you create a toxic-sniffing sense of self that says to someone, listen, this clearly isn't working and I deserve better. Let me know when you change and I'll be there, I promise.

Peel people from your life who can't/won't change or you'll embalm yourself with their dysfunction. You'll become emotionally blind to their unhealthy behaviors until you accept them as "the way it is."

Sometimes the only recourse is to completely remove yourself from someone before you can forgive because the person continues to do serious damage.

6. Understand what forgiveness is

Forgiveness doesn't mean that thing they did is okay. Forgiveness is a release for you, not absolution for them.

Forgiveness means cleaning your soul-house. It means dusting anger from your heart. It means offering a cease fire for yourself because you've finally offered a cease fire for someone else.

Forgiveness is a peace movement, and the benefits will come back to you ten-fold.

Visit Laura's blog at: Mind Over Matter(s)

Further reading:

8 Ways Forgiveness Is Good For Your Health

How To Forgive When You Really Don't Want To

Transactional Writing: Letters That Heal

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