Coach Kim: Forgiving when you've been deeply hurt

Fear, loneliness, depression, abuse, addiction

(Warpboyz, Shutterstock)



SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim responds to a reader's question about forgiving when the other person has deeply hurt you.

Question:

I read your forgiveness article last week and had a question. I am a survivor of parental alienation due to a narcissistic ex-spouse. The pain, loss and despair is so acute that it's challenging to "forgive" this person, who intentionally manipulates the kids to hate me. How do you forgive someone who has hurt you and your children so badly and continues to? Do I really need to forgive them?

Answer:

No, you don't have to forgive people who have badly hurt you, and you definitely shouldn't trust them again or be in a relationship with them.

Having said that, at some point you might decide you want to forgive them because it is taking precious energy to hold onto anger and angst, and it's creating a less than positive energy to live your life in.

But, forgiveness is definitely more complicated and a longer process in serious situations like yours.

I read a comment recently from Shannon Thomas, a licensed clinical social worker who is an expert in psychological abuse. Thomas explained that if you try to release someone who has deeply hurt you from accountability for their actions, it could be harmful or even derail your healing process.

In an article for Thrive Global, Thomas said, "When the topic of forgiveness arises, many emotions are triggered for survivors of abuse. ... The traditional definition of forgiveness involves telling the abuser he or she is released from the responsibility for the damage they have caused. This action is absolutely not helpful within an abusive environment. Toxic people must hold responsibility for their actions."


The bottom line is the people who hurt you will always be responsible for the pain and hurt they caused, and it's never going to be OK. They can be forgiven, though, if you define forgiveness thus: the process of letting go of the hurt, pain, hate and anger that holds you captive around an offense and causes you further suffering.

The bottom line is the people who hurt you will always be responsible for the pain and hurt they caused, and it's never going to be OK. They can be forgiven, though, if you define forgiveness thus: the process of letting go of the hurt, pain, hate and anger that holds you captive around an offense and causes you further suffering.

Forgiveness is not about pardoning the guilty; it is not about saying it's OK that they hurt you. Forgiveness is about choosing not to live in an energy of hate and angst toward this person anymore because it diminishes the quality of your life.

Forgiveness is a process of changing your perspective (thoughts and feelings) about a person or situation so you don't allow it to bring any negative energy or dark feelings into your life anymore. But in a really hurtful situation, it is a process that could take some time. You might need time to feel and experience your very justified feelings of hate, grief and loss — that is perfectly OK and even necessary.

There are also some benefits in staying angry that you might not be ready to let go. Eventually, you will reach a point where you don't want the dark feelings around this in your life anymore. That's when you will know you are ready to shift your perspective and move toward forgiveness.

The jail cell analogy

In difficult situations, I believe the trick for forgiving lies in first forgiving God, the universe, and life for bringing this situation into your journey and not sparing you from it. It is logical to have anger and resentment toward God and life in general for a really difficult situation. But, if you can forgive God and your life for allowing this to happen, you will feel less pain and anger.

You may reach a point where you can give the whole situation over to God and the universe and let them carry it from here. Work toward trusting a higher power to handle the justice, guilt and punishments, because it knows everything and loves everyone involved. It will likely take a while and some practice before you are ready, and that's OK too.

There is a powerful visualization exercise you could try, where you imagine a jail and placing the person who hurt you into a cell and locking them up for a long sentence. Take some time to determine the sentence you believe they deserve. Pronounce them guilty as charged and picture them locked into the cell. It should feel good because they deserve to spend time in jail for what they did.

Then, imagine yourself realizing that in order to keep them in jail, you have to stay there in the jail, too, as the warden. That is how this prison works. If you want them to serve time in jail, you have to stay too. You are not locked in a cell, but you are not allowed to leave because it is your condemnation that must keep them there.

Do you really want to spend days, months or years in that prison making sure this person is punished? Or would you like to eventually let go of the need to condemn this person, hand the keys over to God, and walk away? That is your other option. Decide if you are willing to give up your happiness in order to see this person punished, or if you would rather hand the keys to God and the universe and trust them to handle the justice.

Forgiveness is for you

If you choose forgiveness, you don't have to spend any more time thinking about how guilty the person is anymore. You are now free. You can choose to trust that this entire situation is serving your growth at some level, and you are becoming better for it. You can choose to set aside all the hate, anger, and pain and walk away clean, choosing to have a life full of acceptance, joy, peace and positivity instead.

Colleen Sheehy Orme, a relationship columnist said, "Is there an irony in forgiving the narcissist? Absolutely. Because the narcissist isn't capable of it (forgiveness) themselves. It's their anger that exposes them. It's what enrages them ... They are incapable of letting go of anything they perceive as causing them pain."

You deserve to live differently and in a better way. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the same exact trap of not letting go of what is causing us pain, and letting that pain take from the quality of our lives. We must decide — at some point when we are ready — to let it go.

I am not saying it is easy, but I am saying that you deserve the peace that comes from letting your anger, angst, pain and hate go. Let the person be who and what they are. Let the things they did, be what they did. But take control of the effects those actions have on your life long term. That is in your control.

You decide whether you dwell in feelings of anger today. You decide if feelings of hate overwhelm you today. Decide to live each day in the warmth and light of love, forgiveness, acceptance, trust and peace, despite these hard things that have happened.

This will be a choice you make moment by moment, again and again, but you can do it.

More LIFEadvice:


About the Author: Kim Giles

Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach and speaker who helps clients improve themselves and their relationships. She is the author of "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and has a free clarity assessment available on her website claritypointcoaching.com. To read more of her articles, visit Coach Kim's KSL.com author page.

Editor's Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to (a) be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; (b) create, and receipt of any information does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. You should NOT rely upon any legal information or opinions provided herein. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel; and (c) create any kind of investment advisor or financial advisor relationship. You should NOT rely upon the financial and investment information or opinions provided herein. Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.

Related Stories

SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast