How to Forgive and Let Go When They're Not Sorry
I have a confession: The title of this blog post makes me want to cry!
To forgive someone is already hard enough, but to forgive when they’re not even sorry? That’s HAAARRRRRDDD!
But hey, hang in there, we’ll take it one step at a time…
I’ll start by sharing the biggest lesson I’ve learnt about forgiveness: Forgiveness is something you do for yourself.
To forgive is to allow yourself carry on, to allow yourself to love again and to trust again.
To forgive is to move yourself out of the burden, the hurt and the anger.
To forgive is to win, because you choose to be the bigger person.
Often we hear people say ‘forgive and forget’.
Well, ok, you can try to forgive… but how do you even forget what they did? Is it possible to forget?
I know I’ve forgiven people before, but I definitely have not forgotten what they did or how they made me feel.
So I guess we can say that forgiving someone doesn’t mean we forget what happened, it just means you give yourself permission to keep going despite what already happened.
Forgiving is something that comes naturally to some people, but for others, it takes some effort.
Whichever category you fall into, there’s a forgiveness method you may find useful. It’s called the REACH method of forgiveness.
The REACH method of forgiveness comes from research done by Everett Worthington, in which he outlines 5 steps you can go through to help you through the forgiveness process. It can work for anyone you want to forgive - parent, spouse, child, friend, or someone who may have hurt you a long time ago.
Once you’ve identified who it is you want to forgive, you’re ready to go through the letters of REACH.
1. R - Recall the hurt.
In this step, you write down exactly what they did to hurt you, how they acted, what they said, how they made you feel… If you can’t write, then sit in a quiet place for some time and reflect on what they did that wasn’t right. As you recall the hurt, make a mental note to see that person as human and imperfect, yet with potential for change. Try to let go of judgement and just observe with curiosity what they did and how they made you feel.
2. E - Empathize.
Remember you’re seeing them as human and imperfect, so put yourself in their shoes. Would you intentionally hurt someone else like that? Do you actually 100% think they would intentionally hurt you? Could it be that they regret it now? Maybe try to give an excuse on their behalf. Were they acting a certain way due to underlying reasons like jealousy or greed? What could be the motivation for their actions or words? Maybe they just wanted your attention? Maybe they wanted to tell you something but didn't know how? Try to feel compassionate towards them when you put yourself in their shoes. Imagine yourself making a mistake which hurt someone else - wouldn’t you want them to forgive you? Wouldn’t you want them to understand that it was a mistake which you now regret?
3. A - Altruistic/intangible gift.
Give them forgiveness as a gift. You may also make a heartfelt du’a for them without telling them. Ask Allah to forgive them. It’s ok if you don’t feel ready to forgive. You may need to spend more time working on the previous two steps - Recalling and Empathizing. Be easy on yourself, and don’t force it.
4. C - Commit to forgiveness.
You can either say out loud that you have forgiven so and so, or write it down that you have forgiven them. You can also write them a letter of forgiveness (you can choose not to share this letter with them).
5. H - Hold on to forgiveness
You may hold on to your decision to forgive by telling them, gifting them, or writing a note for yourself to remember. Now that you’ve forgiven them, some triggers may come up to remind you of what happened. Holding on to forgiveness means reminding yourself that you’ve forgiven them. This means when you remember them and what they said or did, you’ll remind yourself that you’ve left that in the past and have forgiven them.
Give the REACH method a go and see if it helps put things into perspective.
Remember that as muslims, we must seek help from Allah even when it’s regarding something like forgiving others. Some things are easier said than done, and that includes forgiving others, so we have to seek help from Allah.
There’s an ayah in the Qur’an which I think is enough to change our mindset towards forgiving others.
Towards the end of the ayah in Surah An-Nur Ayah 22, Allah says:
And let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
I remember one of my biggest challenges was working with this one girl who kept hurting me, and I just could not get out of the situation. I found it hard to go through my day without feeling a certain way because of something she did or said. Just seeing her every morning was enough to ruin my mood -___-
I remember always calling upon Allah saying "Allahumma allif bayna quloobina, Allahumma allif bayna quloobina". This means “O Allah, put affection between our hearts.”
Sometimes, all it takes is a silent du’a for ‘zaman lafiya’ or peaceful togetherness, and bi idhnillah you will get that.
It’s also ok to ask Allah for anything, including asking Him to give us a break from the other person and put some distance between us for some time so we can see the bigger picture.
It’s also ok to ask Allah for the patience and wisdom to handle situations, especially when they come up everyday.
May Allah make it easy for us to forgive others so that He too may forgive us, ameen.
May Allah give us zaman lafiya with our friends, families, colleagues and fellow humans, ameen!
By no means is this post suggesting that you should ‘just forgive’ and live through any sort of abuse or other painful situation. Sometimes, it’s not about forgiving, but about getting yourself out of a situation physically, mentally and emotionally first. If you can’t, seek help. You’re worthy of love and respect, please don’t settle for less.