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When Forgiveness Feels Impossible, Here’s How To Move Forward

Forgiveness is essentially a letting go–of anger, resentment, or whatever it is you feel toward someone who you feel has wronged you. As psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., previously explained to mbg, “Merriam-Webster defines forgiveness as ‘to cease to feel resentment against an offender’ or ‘to give up resentment of or claim to requital.’ It’s an internal state of being, and it’s not dependent on anyone but you.”

She adds that your ability to forgive someone often has little to do with that person or what they did, and everything to do with whether you can make that shift in your thoughts, feelings, and actions towards the person. And just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you’re condoning the behavior, or even that you’re going to welcome this person back into your life–it just means you’ve made peace with what happened.

According to licensed marriage and family therapist Rachel Zar, LMFT, CST, it’s important to remember that it’s only natural to be averse to forgiving: “It’s a protective thing that we do, it’s fight or flight, and it’s human instinct to want to strike back or punish when we feel like we’ve been deeply wronged, and hold on to that weapon we can build in future fights. But there does come a point where you can ask yourself, Is this actually serving me?

To that end, she notes that we tend to conceptualize forgiveness as something we’re giving to someone else, when we should really think about it as something we do for ourselves. “It does start to feel like drinking the poison and hoping that somebody else will die,” she explains–which brings us to our next point.

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