Imagine that someone you know just stepped on your toes.
“Ouch! That really hurt.”
Most of us would say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry. Are your feet ok?”
Sometimes, though, the response is, “I’ll walk where I want to walk. It’s up to you to keep your toes out of the way.”
What happens when the person who hurts you doesn’t apologize or even acknowledge what they did did wrong?
How do you forgive someone in this situation?
First, remember that forgiveness is not a synonym for reconciliation. You can completely forgive someone and still not trust them or have any interest in continuing the relationship.
As noble as it is to try to restore a broken relationship this cannot be accomplished unless everyone involved is working toward that goal. This is even more true when the person who damaged the relationship isn’t willing to own up to his or her actions.
Second, forgiveness isn’t ultimately about them or what happened. Releasing your anger or bitterness is a gift to yourself. Forgiveness is a process. Most people don’t wake up one morning and decide, “I’m going to release my anger starting…now!” Just do as much as you can right now.
In the past I’ve visualized tying a balloon to my anger and watching it float away or pretending that I was chipping pieces from an ever-shrinking boulder. This may sound hokey but it has been pretty effective for me.
Third, don’t pretend everything is ok in the meantime. It isn’t (especially if this list sounds familiar to you.)
Fourth, buy new shoes. It’s much easier to stomp on the toes peeking out of sandals than it is someone who shows up wearing, say, these.
Emotionally speaking this might mean that you stop talking about certain topics with someone, tell them you’ll end the conversation if they do or say X (and then do it!), only agree to spend time with them around other people or no longer see them at all.
(Photo by Salvatore Vuono from freedigitalphotos.net.)
How do you react in this situation?