How to Forgive

“I’ll never forgive them for as long as they live!”

An understandable response to a totally crappy situation…

But how does being so angry about it make you feel?

What if I could show you a completely different way of viewing everything, like looking through a pair of magic, pink binoculars?

What if that new way of seeing things made you feel “nice and fuzzy” on the inside?

What if I stopped asking patronising questions?

Forgiving means letting go of anger or hatred directed at a person. It’s usually the last thing anyone feels like doing, even after their own death. But there is good news.

It is possible to forgive a complete A-hole.

That’s because forgiveness doesn’t excuse behaviour that was wrong or unfair. It doesn’t make it okay to commit genocide or steal cupcakes.

It just gives you the distance, presence, power and mojo to move on.

Letting go and forgiving is all about freeing yourself.

Why I wrote this blog

Learning how to forgive has taken me on a journey to hell and back, even passing through South Croydon! This is a photo of me taken just a few years ago:

I wasn’t quite myself and if I’m honest it even had some effect on my physical appearance. But look at me now!

Still not 100% but doing so much better than before!

The truth is that I’m not a guru or expert on this subject, far from it.

I actually decided to write about forgiveness because I really sucked at letting go and I wanted to figure out what I could do about that.

My own problems began when I started getting into quite extreme disagreements with people. It’s fair to say that politics isn’t my strong point. In fact if I were in a generous mood I might describe my social skills as “appalling”.

A mix of unrealistic expectations, bad luck, anxiety about dealing with other people and my own lack of diplomacy all combined to give quite a few people the impression that I might be one of the devil’s closer relatives.

So how did I get into so much trouble with the humans? Surely, as a plausible candidate for membership of their species, I could have figured out some way to get along? 

For months and months, I searched the unfathomable depths of my wicked soul trying to find an answer to that question. And then one day it hit me like a thunderbolt from heaven! All of sudden the real problem became clear.

I’m a moron.

It was that simple. All I had to do was learn how to develop the emotional intelligence to deal with people and their strange ways. And so it was that I took up the idea of writing this blog and embarked upon an incredible and rewarding journey of horrifying self-discovery.

After months and months of profound soul-searching, analysing, writing, rewriting and editing, I was shocked to discover that my blog had 3 pages.

It turns out that learning how to forgive people involved a serious amount of work! Maybe in the end it was my laziness that saved me from anger. I really can’t be bothered to hate anyone anymore. Not if it means I have to write another crumby page for this website.

But I’ve definitely made progress. I’ve gone from being “absolutely terrible” to “not particularly special” and I consider that to be an enormous achievement. And I already know I will reach mediocre before too long. Way to go me, the sky’s the limit!

Even my social skills have significantly improved and could now accurately be described as merely “questionable” rather than “hopeless beyond all human comprehension and conceivability”.

So if you’re looking for the world champion of personal development you’ve come to wrong place. Mediocrity is the next level I’m aiming for. If I took part in a “mediocrity competition” right now I’d probably come about half-way in the rankings.

It may seem odd but it can be strangely useful to learn from a hypocrite who still gets it wrong sometimes. And that’s why I am quietly confident that I’m not wasting your time here.

Anger can drive you totally crazy, I should know! But as disturbing as it may seem after all my experiences, I often feel as if I might be going completely sane.

How to Forgive

One thing I’ve learnt is that forgiveness becomes easier when you’re willing to learn how to do it, when you’re willing to enrol in the School of Cool.

I’ve written a series of long, tedious articles that I believe will lead you to that place.

My approach is a bit like learning a sport. When someone says “Stop being angry” or “Just let it go” it’s a bit like saying “Stop being bad at soccer”. Not great advice.

A more useful approach is to break everything down into key areas that you can work on improving, such as passing, tackling, goal scoring and fouling.

And of course it takes practice. If you can spend as much time thinking forgiving thoughts as you do thinking angry thoughts then forgiveness will usually start winning over anger.

We all have gaps in our emotional education: 95% of what I write will be painfully obvious to a toddler. But when you learn to “see the obvious” more often and more clearly then you’re closer to the goal.

So get ready for a painstaking journey through the dark recesses of your lovely brain!

Okay okay, I wanna know more! Hit me baby!

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Latest related thoughts

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is something that means many different things to many different people. It can mean letting go, healing pain, changing focus, finding freedom, understanding humanity or embracing harmony or hope in times of great trouble. However you look at this concept, it's something powerful that can be studied, developed, practiced and deepened for the sake of a more peaceful life and a better world.

Humanity

Human beings can sometimes behave in a way that is slightly sociopathic. But many of us need to go through at least one brutal experience of inhumanity before we can realise the true value that humanity offers the world.

To be on the receiving end of behaviour that is lacking in empathy can help you to sincerely consider, understand and regret those times in your own life when you also acted as if other human beings did not exist, were not as important as you or did not have real feelings.

The most humane and empathic human beings are those who are able to empathise with other people’s inability to empathise with them by seeing that lack of empathy as something that reminds them of their own ignorance in the past. Understanding and allowing people to behave without empathy for you is a test of true empathy and non-judgment of yourself.

Everything that I have experienced has led me to one very clear, very simple conclusion about life: all that really matters in this world is kindness. This is all I have ultimately learned from the kindness of others, from the unkindness of others and from my own mistakes. It's never too late and can never be wrong to be kind.

Kindness may never be in fashion but it is the true essence of humanity. It can dissolve anger, repair divisions, rise above judgment and make sense of everything that might otherwise seem a little pointless.

My favourite quotations

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong"

Mahatma Gandhi

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"

Jesus Christ

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much"

Oscar Wilde

8 thoughts on “How to Forgive

  1. Just wish to tell you that your blog is very intelligent, insightful and well-written, and I absolutely love it! I have gone through so much professional literature on psychology and neurobiology while making the same journey as you did, and I must say that finding and reading your blog was a sheer pleasure because you somehow manage to bring out the core of it and present it in a manner that makes me think that “I couldn’t have said it better myself”.

  2. I find all your articles to be right on and extremely inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. I needed some guidance or a reminder and you provided it. You made a difference in my life. Thank you.

  3. Hi there, just wanted to thank you for the posts. I came across some of them and they are really helpful. Thank you a bunch :)

  4. Hi! Your articles are brilliant! Thanks for putting them online, I’m finding them helpful at a difficult time. How did you figure this stuff out?

  5. I would like to express my appreciation for your blog!!! Stumbled upon it doing a search the other day looking to understand why ‘bad things keep happening’ to me…your article was like a light going on in my head…went on to read your other pages about forgiveness and letting go…again, this is exactly what I have been needing to hear. Don’t want to over egg it but for the first time in months I feel I am gaining perspective and feeling hopeful again…can only thank you for the part your writings have played on my journey. You are a wise man who writes from the heart and your words have touched mine. I thank you very much and wish you many blessings…keep up the blog please!

  6. Hey, there’s no need to forgive anyone or even yourself…that is if you’d rather suffer for the rest of your life. One fact to remember…”Forgiveness, not to be confused with condoning, is always for the forgiver…ALWAYS!” Namaste, Donny

More comments from this site

  1. How to Overcome Emotional Dependency
  2. Bv says:

    So true... Even I am in the path of changing myself. It looks so difficult but I want to do it for myself. Moral help definitely matters

  3. Rafal says:

    Awesome article how not to be needy ! Thanks

  4. Jules says:

    Thankyou for a well written article. So many useful tips and ideas. You should do presentations for teens and adults - everyone can learn a great deal for your insights.

  5. Jen says:

    Thank you so much this is really handy for someone like me who is struggling over my personal life decisions.

  6. Saumya says:

    Well this was something that has made me complete. I know that being a teenager is like being a person from another planet, thrown here to suffer at this point in time when i have to make my career and focus on living a quality life. This has given me a great insight on how to manage everything. After all, there will be a new day and I sincerely hope a day to turn a new leaf in my life. I always knew i just cannot rely on anyone be it my parents or friends and I know I have to face it all my own. SO A VERY BIG THANKYOU FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN MY LIFE. ALL THIS IS MIRACULOUS AND HELPFUL!

  7. salma says:

    Great article !

  8. Tony says:

    I too have found this blog really helpful & it gives me some useful tips on how to recognise and control my own emotions. I have been struggling with things for years but didn't understand exactly what I was struggling with and why, let alone how to deal with it. I have been receiving support from various Christian sources for my issues and have made great progress. Having started down this path and shared my struggles I have found myself wondering why those I have shared with, including my wife, do not seem to understand my 'need' to talk things through as much and as often as I do. This can leaving me feeling more alone and quite down. Emotional dependency was mentioned to me by a minister a few months ago and having felt left alone while trying to talk things through with my wife last night I had a restless sleep and woke early so decided to explore the topic more. There are definitely several traits here that I recognise and suggestions of things I can do to help myself. I would normally look almost exclusively for help from Christian sources but this blog seems to be a really helpful source for anyone struggling through life with some form of emotional dependency.

  9. Kate says:

    I had already recognised this quality in myself a while back, but this is the most articulate and informative explanation I've seen or heard. I love that its written I'm such a way that is positive and encouraging and allows the reader to acknowledge that many people are doing the same thing and feeling equally as guilty. I think I'll have to read and re-read a few times but I'm hopeful I can get some control back of my life and my emotions.

  10. Kate says:

    I stumbled on this article today whilst trying to find some relief on google rather than making yet another phone call to burden a friend with my emotions. I've been reading this article for hours, writing notes and feeling relieved, but worried about how long I will go before reverting to old thought patterns. I'd be happy to keep in touch and hear how you are going, if you think it could help.

  11. Nema Toulie Deen says:

    Thank you! I feel better already and am going to be coming back to this article over and over again through my self healing journey

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  13. Sarah says:

    Hi John, I love your writing, your point of view, your compassion, endurance - everything! This article is brilliant. I love your maturity which inspires me a lot. I've struggled with depression on this issue - of not liking people very much and especially those closest to me in my family, even my lover - who I'm attracted to immensely despite being fully aware of his ethical immaturity as you call it. It's left me feeling lonely, desperate, and sad to not be able to find company with people who are as concerned as I am about the destruction that is happening around us everyday. I find myself seriously disliking simple minded people and the great thing is - I know now that I don't have to. I learned that the past weekend over the Easter holidays with my family. I did hate them, of course, because they're complete assholes with the emotional intelligence of a 5 year old but you know what, it's not the end of the world! At least I have my bestfriend, God, nature, a new day, my plants, my health and possibly a chance to raise my own children who will NOT be complete idiots. I'm very happy about this. Also, I learned this weekend that not everyone will view the world in the way that I do. And that's OK too. We're all different. People don't have to understand me or empathize with me or even respect me. They are free to do whatever they want, as am I. And that freedom is also a very positive thing in itself, and I'd like to think that at the very least, I can honour other people's freedoms too. You are a wonderful man and would love to know more people like you. Keep up the great blog & God bless! P.S. Yes, I know i'm not supposed to hate people as a Christian but I'm only human. I'm sure Jesus is not impressed by us all the time either.

  14. Alvira Zack says:

    Thank you definitely a lot of good thoughts... Hard for me I absolutely hate people and I wish I didn't ... I had one big scar in my life where most of my friends turned on me so it definently hurt me... But I'm working on it now and hopefully it gets better ...

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  16. Nat says:

    This changed my life. Thank you. I am so excited to practice it after two years and a half of being so angry. Or as you put it- punishing myself. I feel that the stone in my stomach is dissolving.

  17. Sarah says:

    Very insightful! This is exactly what I've been needing to hear and read to help me through forgiveness so I can move on with my life. I will be re-reading this until I've made all the changes and become truly happy from within! Thank you.....

  18. Robyn says:

    Thanks so much! This came at a time when I needed it most. You've given me hope that I can overcome this beast! xx

  19. Ian says:

    Excellent resource, provided a process that enabled me to deal with an unpleasant situation. Thanks.

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  21. Banana says:

    This was so very helpful. I'm in this position of rejection by someone I had become infatuated with - but my mind can't say 'Stop, this isn't real / reciprocated'. It's totally about other things / unrequited crushing. It morphed into feeling totally romantically and personally rejected by this fantasy. This article helped me bridge the mind- body connection I needed to "get a grip" and accept / understand / forgive/ let go of this experience. I am talking about the separation between what my mind knows and understands - rejection isn't about me necessarily or if it is, there are other ways to process the information. However, my body is all aflutter around this person - my biggest fear is seeing them with a significant other (I know that's nuts but totally normal to concoct this elaborate crush). The article helped my brain be the boss over how my heart reacts.

  22. Victor Ruiz says:

    Thank you to this site on how to forgive... Blessings!

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