5 Steps to Forgiveness
I started this piece by writing about moments I remember from this ordeal. As I re-read it to make any final edits, I realized it wasn't telling the right story.
This isn't about what happened. It's not about why my friends betrayed me or who encouraged people I'd known for years to stop speaking to me. It's not about the people who still believe that everything they did was right, and that I am some kind of delusional person who is telling stories. It's not about any of them.
This is about me, and how I spent the last year learning that you can learn from anything and there is always room to grow. It's about how I learned to forgive people, and how I'm still learning.
The last year was exceptionally difficult. I lost friends for reasons that still seem ridiculous to me. I've had more loud, passionate discussions about how you should treat others in the last year than I've ever had in my life. I made mistakes. Others made mistakes. Many of us grew from those mistakes.
Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I don't know if it ever has, to be completely honest with you. Does it really come easily to anyone?
This has happened to me before, friends walking away. It happened in high school - I was told I was too annoying and too clingy. This time I was told I was too mean and cold.
If nothing else, I have learned that even being yourself won't please some people.
I started seeing a therapist in January, largely because of the impact this had on me. People I had been friends with walked away and said nasty things behind my back. Some of them still do. I've always been someone that wanted to please people. My therapist has been helping me understand that I don't have to please anyone if I don't want to.
Whether you've been through a significant betrayal, or one negative incident, or whatever has brought you to this point, forgiveness is possible. Here's a couple of things I've learned in the last year that I hope will help you if you need to forgive someone.
Talk to Someone.
Therapists are probably my number one recommendation, but friends and mentors are good too. People who have been through this before are going to be able to help you reconcile some of your feelings.
Journal. And then don't journal.
This one is hard for me because I believe in the power of writing down your feelings, but journaling became difficult for me. Even in moments when I felt like I had forgiven someone, I'd start writing and turn to tears and guttural anger before I could even finish. That won't necessarily happen to you, but talking about it out loud became easier for me. It kept the anger that started in my stomach and moved outward from getting too big. I can write about it now.
If you want to repair something, try. If you don't, you don't have to.
There are a couple of relationships that are gone and won't come back, and that's okay. But some of the ones I wanted to repair I was able to fix. I still have moments where I get upset, but they're few and far between, and they're quelled by apologies and the forward movement we have made. No longer being friends with people that are toxic and make you feel bad about yourself is a positive thing.
If someone apologizes, don't say, “It's okay.”
It's not okay. That person hurt you. But you can accept their apology (or not, if you don't want to) and move forward.
Stop holding grudges.
This one I'm still working on, but I'm definitely trying. I don't want people to hold grudges against me for mistakes I've made, so I don't feel like I can hold grudges for their mistakes. That doesn't mean you have to be friends with someone again. All it means is that you can move forward.
Forgiveness is hard, but it's worth it. The repaired relationships are worth it, and in the long run, if you can forgive them for their mistakes, they can forgive you for yours. And in friendship, I've learned it's important to grow with people who love you and challenge you. Mistakes are small, but if the friendship is big, forgiveness is important.
Melissa Boles is a young professional living in Washington state, who is learning to cook, to keep a plant alive, and to love herself and others. She is a love letter and coffee date enthusiast, a storyteller, a greater fool, and a feminist. Her heart lies in helping people and improving the world around her.