Mindfulness as a Tool for Forgiveness

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Rejection. Betrayal. Shattered dreams.

It’s a rare being who hasn’t or won’t experience one or the other in a lifetime. They are life’s trials that can make us stronger or break us down. Breaking down is normal. What it shouldn’t be is permanent. Learn to forgive the person who has hurt you by being mindful.

Minor irritations are easy to get over with, like the driver who cuts you off in traffic, or the rude sales clerk. It’s the soul-crushing incidents that linger in your heart and mind that leave you feeling hurt, angry, and vengeful. A partner who deceives you, a co-worker who maligns you to get that promotion, a friend you thought would have your back when you needed them. Even more horrible, it could be a stranger who has assaulted you or a loved one, with disastrous or even fatal consequences.

It takes willpower and determination to forgive and move on. And there are ways to recover. Forget and continue forward. Engage in activities you enjoy. Keep a journal. Surrender to a higher being. Forgive the offender.

Forgiving someone is demanding and challenging. Human nature is hardwired for survival. We fight back; we retaliate; we take revenge. If we forgive, it’s an admission of defeat, a devaluation of one’s self. But what many don’t get is, to forgive by being mindful is both a relief and a release, it’s letting go of grudges and bitterness and resentment.

mindfulness in forgiving


Here are some concepts about forgiveness that a lot of people do not grasp:

  1. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation requires negotiation. It’s two parties coming together again in mutual trust. You can forgive but choose not to reconcile, mingle, or communicate with the person again.
  2. Forgiveness is not an exoneration of the offender. Neither is it condoning the offense.
  3. Forgiving is not forgetting. To forget is to deny it ever happened. Remembering protects us from being victimized a second or third time. Forgiveness is remembering but without feeling the hurt and bitterness it once brought.

Being able to truly forgive is necessary for our emotional and physical health. Harboring resentment, hatred, and self-doubt leads to a variety of illnesses – stomach acidity, high blood pressure, cardiac problems, depression, and anxiety. It also puts a strain or totally destroys our relationships with other people. By contrast, people who forgive are happier, have a more positive outlook on life, and can maintain harmonious relationships.

One way to practice forgiveness is through mindfulness, a constant state of being fully aware of what’s happening around you and within you, without criticizing or judging. Here are steps to help you.

How to forgive by being mindful:

1. Think of the person who has hurt you and recall the pain and anguish it caused you. Does it warrant the effort it takes to forgive? How did your attitude towards other people and life in general change because of that person? Part of being mindful is introspecting, looking inwards into the deep recesses of your soul.

2. Accept that what happened was not all right, and allow yourself to feel the anger, sadness, and pain. Then make the decision to forgive. Reflect on the reality that when you decide to forgive, you are extending compassion and kindness towards the person, and you are letting go of your hostility and rage.

3. Practice empathy. Try to understand the person who hurt you. What was their life growing up? Did they suffer from physical and psychological wounds that may have contributed to their actions of hurting you? Were they misguided, bereft of love and mercy? You are not making excuses for their actions. You are merely trying to understand where they are coming from.

4. Be aware of the pain that the person’s action caused you. Feel it completely so that you don’t unwittingly lash out at other people who did not wrong you. People who have been hurt tend to displace their anger onto others, starting a vicious cycle.

5. Show the person that you have forgiven them. But don’t expect a positive response and keep your distance if you are not sure you will be safe. You don’t have to reconcile with the offending person.

6. Finally, find meaning in the act of forgiving. When you have experienced pain and forgiven the person who caused it, you become more sensitive to other people’s feelings. When your awareness is heightened, you will become kinder and gentler, and you’ll avoid hurting other people, and they too will learn from you.

Related Reading: How to Improve Empathy at Work

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