How can you forgive someone if they never apologize for hurting you?
The great news is that it is possible! I have learned how to do this through Buddhist practices. A book that I have studied and constantly return to is one written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: “How to be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World.” This is a quick read and easy to reference when needed.
Here are some steps that help me reach forgiveness.
1. Everyone deserves happiness
It can be tough to think about this when someone has hurt you. I step back and imagine them in an objective way. I remind myself that they are a human being just like me and at one time they were even a baby who needed to be cared for. Imagining them as a baby helps me to think objectively. Then I tell myself that they also want a happy and meaningful life just as I do. In his book “How to be Compassionate,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “We all want happiness and do not want suffering…” This is definitely one way I can relate to everyone in the world. Often times people who hurt you do so because they are not happy and they are suffering. Some people are not strong enough to deal with that internally so they act externally against others. Once I understand this about someone I am able to take an analytical approach to a situation and be on my way to the path of forgiveness.
2. Think about them while meditating
I am a firm believer in the benefits that meditation has on our bodies and most importantly on our mental attitudes. Meditation has been proven to strengthen logical thinking and emotional intelligence. It can be intimidating at first but there are great resources online to help you get started. The first time I ever meditated about someone who hurt me, I searched for guidance and found a meditation instructor Tara Brach. She has a website with free guided meditations. I listened to a 25 minute meditation with my eyes closed and did this for weeks. My years of harbored anger vanished! It just takes some dedicated time and a quiet space.
Her website is: https://www.tarabrach.com
3. It is not personal
It is difficult not to take something personal when it seems so personal especially when someone directly hurts you and your loved ones. My first instinct is to take it personal but I then go back to practices one and two. I think objectively about the person. I think about how that person is suffering and is just yearning for happiness and meaning in their life. I think of this compassionately. Be careful! It can be easy to find joy in thinking of the suffering of others especially those who have hurt you but this is the opposite of compassion. In his book “How to be Compassionate,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “When someone is trying to take advantage of you, first you must clearly understand that this other person is a human being, and has a right to be happy.”
4. Harboring hate and anger leads to more suffering
It may feel satisfying when you have negative thoughts about someone who has hurt you but more often than not that person doesn’t care and is continuing to live their life. When we obsess over the hurtful things people have done to us then our minds become full of hatred, anger, and jealousy. We do become what we think about. If we are not able to forgive someone it just leads us to a life of suffering and unhappiness. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives some insight, “If you nurse hatred, you will never be happy, even in the lap of luxury…Although anger may lead to temporary satisfaction for a brief period, ultimately anger will cause further difficulties.” Rather than allowing someone to strip you of your intelligence, why not use them as an opportunity to gain patience and wisdom?
Through dedicated practice I have learned how to achieve forgiveness. It is never easy and it takes continuous practice and sometimes many meditation sessions to finally reach forgiveness. Some words that resonate with me during any challenging situation are these, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
“Try to imagine that your enemies are purposefully making trouble in order to help you accumulate positive forces for shaping the future…We need enemies to strengthen our practice, and from this spiritual viewpoint we can even be grateful to them.”
The next time you are presented with a hurtful situation I encourage you to try these steps. Do you want someone else to be in control of your happiness? I know I don’t.
Written by Stephanie Briggs
“How to Be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Guided meditations by Tara Brach: https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/