How To Forgive Someone You Hate

By Mike Joos

“We punish other people for the same mistake a thousand times. Every time it comes in your memory, you judge them again and punish them again.” -Miguel Angel Ruiz

Have you ever hated someone so much you just can’t get them out of your head?

It’s kind of like when the car radio plays a terrible song while on your way to the grocery, and you find yourself humming that terrible song as you walk past shelves of cheese…and again when you’re at home putting your cheese away.

That’s what unforgiveness is– the habit of feeling tortured even when your torturer is long gone.

By Mike Joos

I confess to having a terrible song stuck in my head. For the past few years I’ve been replaying a certain someone’s hurtful words and actions in my mind. I want to forgive and finally move on, but holy hell it ain’t easy.

Forgiveness feels impossible. It’s like the Rubik’s Cube of the Soul. But it’s worth the effort because forgiveness is freedom.

Just ask He-Man and Skeletor:

By Mike Joos

But make no mistake: forgiveness is not your enemy’s freedom from accountability, but your own freedom from torture. Anger is time consuming and exhausting, and you usually don’t realize this until after you’re finished being angry.

So lately I’ve been trying out various techniques for releasing my twisted need to punish this person over and over again in my imagination. I’ve found these next two tactics to be much more helpful:

  • Reflect on what this person’s crime took away from you on a broad level. How can you get it back independently from this person?
  • Reflect on the important lessons you learned from the ugly situation you were in. Take a moment every day to feel grateful for these lessons.

I guess it boils down to the following:

The only time I don’t obsess over the crimes of my unnamed “enemy” is when I’m filling my days with meaningful activities, satisfying work, and important people– when I’m building my present and future, not fighting memories of the past.

But the most important thing I need to share with you is this: Commit to traveling in the direction of forgiveness instead of judging yourself for not already being there. As long as you genuinely want to forgive your enemy, you’re halfway there.

Here’s what one random Internet blog commenter had to say about this topic:

“A friend of mine once remarked that forgiveness…is a journey rather than a destination. We make the choice to forgive, but then we have to keep choosing it, over and over. Lingering anger or sorrow doesn’t mean you’re not in the process of forgiveness; they just highlight that it is, indeed, a process.”

And because the quote above is as pretty as a prayer, I’ll end here with Amen.

Hold on, I lied. I’ll end with this:

By Mike Joos

Your Turn: What has your journey toward forgiveness been like?


Kick ass illustrations by Mike Joos

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5 Responses to How To Forgive Someone You Hate

  1. Thauanne says:

    I’m experiencing forgiveness and I think it’s one of the hardest things we humans have to do. But is also one of the most beautiful.
    I just decided that I have been depressed over the past for way to long, I deserve to be happy and in peace of mind.

    • Kimberly says:

      Good for you, Thauanne! For me, forgiveness was easier to achieve when I realized my quality of life was suffering because of my anger. Like you said, it starts with wanting happiness and peace of mind for yourself, not condoning the wrong committed against you by the other person. So glad to hear that you’ve decided not to be a victim of your past any longer. Best of luck to you!

  2. Pingback: What an Optical Illusion Can Teach Us About Freedom | a brave life

  3. Sheryl says:

    Oh forgiveness, why are you so hard?

    For me one of the biggest things that has let me move towards forgiveness on some big issues was reframing the idea, and separating it a little bit. Using the example of someone who did a lot of hurtful things that had a profound impact on my life when I was young, I decided that despite requests to the contrary, forgiveness wasn’t something I was going to report in with him on: my forgivness is between me and the universe, and I don’t owe him absolution – that’s between him and whatever he chooses to believe him. This allows me to contemplate and move towards a forgiving place in myself without having the pressure of needing to forgive him for his sake. Also realizing that forgiveness doesn’t mean that the relationships need to go back to how they were, or even continue to exist in any substantial ways. It’s more about moving on with my life instead of dwelling.

    On the other hand, sometimes the smaller things are harder to apply forgiveness to. Snitty remarks, shorter situations or just nasty people who aren’t close to me? For some reason those can be harder to let go of.

    • Kimberly says:

      OMG, Amen to your entire second paragraph! Beautiful and wise. I’m glad you’ve been able to experience forgiveness. The ability to grow into an amazing person despite major childhood challenges/ trauma is something I truly and deeply admire.

      As for not forgiving the smaller things…if nasty people aren’t preventing you from moving forward and being happy, there’s not enough reason to work hard at something as frustrating as forgiveness!

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