PST #52: Forgiveness: Forgiving When It’s Hard



Despite what inspirational coffee mugs and motivational instagram posts say, you shouldn’t forgive before you are ready. It’s worth giving yourself the time to process the situation.

Right after the incident, you may still be stuck in feelings of anger, betrayal, and resentment. If you push those aside and try to forgive too early it won’t stick. The unfelt feelings will just allow resentment to resurface.

You can’t fully forgive for what you haven’t fully felt.

Once you let yourself be really pissed off for as long as you need to get it all out of your system, I’ll show you what comes next. You’ll learn new ways to look at the situation, acknowledge and forgive yourself for your part in it, and finally forgive the other party.

You won’t want to miss this episode because it offers you a path to true relief that no pithy quote ever could.

Forgiveness before you are ready just doesn’t work. But no matter the situation, forgiveness is possible and it’s worth pursuing.

If you’ve got someone that you are struggling to forgive, I can help.

Let’s hop on a free, 30 minute, no pressure call. We’ll talk about what’s happening, what you wish was happening, and how to bridge the gap. Click here to schedule.


What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Thoughts you can practice to help you feel better.
  • Understanding the difference between wanting to forgive and thinking you should want to
  • Why we hold onto our anger.
  • How to grow your ability to forgive.
  • 3 takeaways that you can use to fully forgive too.

Get a full episode transcript:

Read Full Transcript

About 5 years ago there was an incident with a family member. Actually it wasn't a single incident it was a series of incidentes. and they were bad. I did my very best at the time 2 do what was right in your relationship but every single thing I did just seemed to make everything worse. and eventually I decided the only thing I could do was to walk away from this family relationship.

I was in life coach training at the time which meant two things
I got a ton of practice coaching on this issue because I was in training from a variety of different sources and styles. Master coaches. newbie coaches. and nothing that happened in those sessions made a dent in my anger about the situation.
the second thing is I felt kind extra terrible because how could I be a good life coach if I couldn't get over this.

But really the biggest piece of being a good coach is being able to see your own mind so that you can help other people see their own minds. Their own Solutions and their own timing. and the truth was I wasn't ready to forgive this person.

Over the years I addressed this series of incidences in a variety of ways and I just wasn’t ready to truly forgive. And it even became a helpful source of connection with my coaching clients who also had things they were struggling to forgive. ex wives that were stealing from them. Ex husbands who sent their kids home from their weekend all hopped up on sugar after a weekend with no rules. Parents who had done them wrong and their childhood. unreasonable bosses and coworkers. Many of us have people in our lives that we are so willing to forgive.

And the catchy quotes that we have even from very good sources like a Buddha and Tolstoy and others don't help us.

They say things like:

Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace. Let no man pull you low enough to hate him. -Martin Luther King

Let us forgive each other only then will we live in peace. Tolstoy , Budda

inherent in these quotes is a reminder of how much hurt. but what do you do when you're not truly ready to forgive?

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.

All of these things are true but they didn’t help. In fact they just made me feel worse because I am a life coach and I know all the right things to do but I just wasn’t ready to forgive.

So let me tell you what did help.

Don’t pressure yourself to forgive quickly. If forgiveness is the gift you give yourself, then you don’t have to take that gift until you are ready. I took years to forgive this person. Years. I didn’t stay mad the whole time - I just stayed present and accepting of my feelings about the situation.
I understood cognitively that I falsely believed that anger was protecting me again me getting hurt again. I knew that wasn't true and I knew I still believed. I just noticed again and again how I could hold both beliefs in my brain and let that be enough. Because believing that I someday wouldn’t need the anger felt better then believing that I did need the anger. That’s a little meta because it’s the brain watching itself. But that's an important piece of life coaching oh, we never tell clients what to think. We just show them what they are thinking. And what those thoughts are creating for them. And then they get to choose if they keep the thoughts or not

When you’ve been wronged so often we feel powerless and so it’s important to not future wrong yourself by requiring forgiveness before you are ready.

Know the difference between between wanting to forgive and thinking you should want to forgive. And being okay with not being ready. It doesn’t make you a bad person. You don’t have to justify to others why you haven’t forgiven this person.
Especially if you feel like you should have stood up for yourself more in the situation - it can be very healing to stand up for yourself now by giving yourself time.
Going back to my situation- as long as I believed that I needed this anger to protect me from getting hurt again, then to force myself to give up the anger would have felt like I was saying I wasn’t worth protecting. Or I couldn’t count on myself to protect myself - which would have made me need the anger even more.

Understanding that forgiving others comes from the same well as being able to forgive ourselves.

So if you want to forgive someone but you can’t.
Growing your general forgiveness ability will help. And you can do that by...
You can start by forgiving yourself. This one can be a little sneaky because what you are blaming yourself for in this situation can be hidden or tied up with a victim mentality.

In most situations you played some part that you wish you hadn’t played. Even if that part was that you ignored an early warning signal or didn’t advocate for yourself in the way you wish you would have.

Truly forgiving yourself will feel good. It will feel like you are setting down a heavy weight.

In my situation, truly believing that I did the best I could at the time. And “I did what I did for reasons I feel good about.” were the thoughts that allowed me to forgive myself.

Be open to the intermediary steps of forgiveness. And over time I came to truly feel
Appreciation for the good things that came out of the situation that wouldn’t have happened if it had gone down differently.
Appreciation for the good parts about this person.
I got to a place where I loved this person and those feelings of love sat right alongside the anger about what happened.
Until one day, I was running on some back roads on a beautiful day and an Avett Brothers song “No Hard Feelings” came up on the playlist which is not regular running music for me and all of a sudden all the anger was gone. I’d forgiven them. I felt it come over me in a wave. It was totally gone.
We had never talked about what happened and I doubt we ever will. I know for sure that I don’t need to.
That belief that I’d been practicing all those years “we were all just doing the best we could.” had finally taken root and I forgave. The psychical sensation was for me like I someone had taken a really heavy box out of my arms and set it down for me. Like I had this heavy thing I’d been carrying and someone helped me set it down.
And again I know this is meta but the person that helped me set it down was me. It was the me that had gently practiced forgiveness and compassion and love. The me that had spent countless hours getting coaching on the situation and seeing it from new angles and being to believe that I could be safe without my anger.

That’s what I want for you my friend. Don’t forgive until you are ready. If someone had wrestled that heavy box out of my arms before I was ready we would have both ended up hurting ourselves. But if this is a situation that you truly want to get past, then know that forgiveness is possible for you and it feels amazing. It’s worth doing the work for and I’m here to help you.

I offer totally free, no pressure sessions where we dive into what happened, what you want to have happen, and how to bridge the gap. You’ll walk away from the session with a new way of looking at your situation and a clear idea of what to do next. You can grab one of those sessions by texting “talktoallie” to the number 44222. It will prompt you for your email and then I’ll send you a scheduling link. Or you can always go to allieirwin.com and grab a session there.

Have a great week everyone.


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