If you’ve ever wondered how to forgive someone who hurt you, use this powerful practice to help you let go of resentment and move on in the best way possible– starting today!
Are you harboring negative feelings of bitterness, resentment, and anger toward someone that may have hurt you in the past?
If you’re ready to finally clear those negative emotions and built-up anger so that you can move on and start investing in your own happiness, this post can help you do exactly that!
- Powerful forgiveness practice to replace resentment with love
- How resentment is keeping you from living your best life
- Next steps in letting go of resentment and finding forgiveness
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” –Nelson Mandela
When I was younger, I held onto plenty of resentful feelings toward several people from my past that I thought were very well deserved.
Some of the emotions were valid, normal responses to negative experiences I had at the time, but holding onto those emotions wasn’t serving me in the present moment. Some of the resentment and anger I was holding onto stemmed from old hurts that still felt unfair or unresolved.
And, like many of us, I was also guilty of hanging onto old feelings that I blamed on another person’s behavior, but that actually had more to do with my own decisions and responses at the time.
Then, I entered a spiritual path. I began studying transformational teachings, I went to seminary, and I received a Masters Degree in counseling psychology. At the time, the path I had chosen enabled me to work in the mental health field and counsel others, but, more importantly, it was also the catalyst to my own healing process.
As I continued to grow spiritually, I began to identify and release old resentments that had been holding me back from fully being my best self.
I knew there was still more work to do in my personal development if I wanted to truly let go of bitterness and create the happier life I was dreaming of.
The bad news was, my journey to forgiveness was going to take a very long time and a lot of hard work unless I had the right support.
The good news was, I had recently met and began working with my first mentor, Jack Boland.
Over the course of the work I did with Jack, he challenged me to look for any places inside of me that were still harboring feelings of resentment.
I’d done a lot of forgiveness work by this time, but there were still times when I’d think about a person or experience from my past and feel bitter feelings, resentment, or even victimhood rise up within me.
You may have heard the old saying that holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
I believe this is true! Whether it’s drinking poison or holding onto toxic feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment, you only end up harming yourself.
I knew that if I wanted to create a life I truly loved and experience true emotional freedom, I needed to find a way to release these lingering resentments once and for all.
Free Forgiveness Meditation
Forgive the past, heal your heart and set yourself free in just 10 minutes
My mentor shared a lesson with me that changed my life…
Jack told me a story from his own life:
When he was about 30, he borrowed money from his father and invested everything he had into a business he started with his brother-in-law.
In this partnership, his brother-in-law managed the money while Jack was the salesperson. For the first nine months, business went well. But, Jack began receiving letters that some of the business’ bills weren’t being paid.
When he took a closer look at the company’s finances, Jack discovered that his partner had systematically taken all of the money out of the business for his own personal use, leaving the business bankrupt.
Understandably, Jack was devastated!
All the money he’d saved up in the decade since he’d graduated from college was now gone. The money his father had loaned him was also gone.
And of course, Jack felt betrayed by someone he believed was a trusted friend and family member, and who didn’t seem to be bothered by this state of affairs at all!
When Jack tried to have an honest conversation about what he’d found, his brother-in-law simply said, “I don’t know, the money’s gone. I can’t get it back. It is what it is.”
His brother-in-law then abandoned the business, leaving Jack to pick up the pieces.
Jack struggled with bitterness and resentment from the betrayal.
Thankfully, Jack didn’t go bankrupt. He systematically worked for three years to pay off all of the business’ debts, and he eventually moved to a new area of the country and started an entirely different career.
Even as he became increasingly successful speaking and teaching, he still carried resentment over what had happened in the past.
Every time he thought about his now-ex brother-in-law, even years later, he noticed that he felt resentful and frustrated. Jack likened it to feeling like he had a ball and chain around his leg.
By then, Jack had been teaching and helping other people to transform their lives, and he knew that to really take his work to the next level, he needed to clear his lingering resentment and let go of anger that still plagued him about what had been done to him.
Here’s the powerful forgiveness practice that Jack Boland used to let go of resentment and actually replace it with love…
Jack told me:
I’d had years and years of thinking angry, resentful, mean, bitter thoughts about my brother-in-law, and I didn’t know how to transform that.
Eventually, I found myself remarried and with a five-year-old son… and I just loved my little boy. Any time I would think of my son, my heart would open and I would feel this huge wave of love wash over me.
One day, an idea came to me. The next time I thought of my son and felt the build up of unconditional love for him, in my mind, I replaced the picture of my son with a picture of my brother-in-law.
Once I’d done this, I would say, “May you be happy and do well. I forgive you for everything that happened in the past. We were young. And whatever you did with that money, I really wish you well because that’s what I wish for myself and that’s what I wish for all people.”
Jack admitted that, initially, this exercise was not easy.
But over time and with a lot of repetition over the course of many months, it became easier and easier for him, until he got to a place where he actually did feel he’d let things go and genuinely wished his brother-in-law well.
How to use this forgiveness practice for yourself:
- Identify the people, events, or memories from the past (even the recent past!) that trigger feelings of resentment or bitterness in you.
- Record your list in a journal and set aside a few moments each day to focus on one person or event at a time.
- Choose a space that is quiet and free from distractions, if possible. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think about someone or something from your life right now that brings up feelings of great love, joy, and opens your heart.
- When the feelings of love and joy are at their highest, replace your original heart-opening image with a mental image of the person(s) from your past.
- Then, to the person(s) in the image, say, “May you be happy and do well. I forgive you for everything that happened in the past. I wish you the best, because that’s what I’d wish for myself and that’s what I wish for all people.”
- Take a few deep, calming breaths and open your eyes. Repeat as often as you’d like, until you notice the feelings of bitterness and resentment decreasing. Move through your list at your own pace.
When Jack saw his brother-in-law for the first time in years, all the hard work he’d done with his new forgiveness practice was tested.
A few months after Jack first began his forgiveness practice, he found himself on a business trip back in the city where his first business had been based.
While on the way to his hotel, Jack pulled his rental car up to a red light and stopped. He happened to notice a beautiful convertible with the top down pulled up in the lane next to him.
“Wow, what a beautiful car,” Jack thought. Then, to his surprise, he noticed that the man behind the wheel was his former brother-in-law!
At that moment, Jack found himself thinking, “Wow, it looks like he’s doing really well. I’m happy for him.”
Gone were the feelings of anger and bitterness for this man who Jack had resented for so many years!
The light changed, and the two men drove on, and Jack thought, “Think of the timing. I got off the plane, went to the restroom at just the right time, got in this rental car at just the right time… everything worked out precisely so that I would be in this exact spot at this exact time.”
Holding on to a past resentment can stifle your opportunity to live your best life.
Just as Jack was able to release his bitterness and resentment and replace it with feelings of well wishes toward someone he felt had betrayed him, so can you.
By following this simple forgiveness practice, you too can set yourself free from the painful stories of your past and move forward, truly sharing your gifts with the world in powerful and meaningful ways.
Remember, choosing to practice forgiveness for the people and events from your past that are causing resentment in your life now doesn’t mean that your initial anger was invalid in any way. In fact, it’s important to remember that as human beings, having feelings like anger, frustration, sadness, hurt, and disappointment can be a very natural response to negative events.
The emotions we often consider “negative” are a normal part of life! Forgiveness does not require you to pretend your true feelings don’t exist.
Forgiveness exercises that empower us to release toxic, long term emotions like the one Jack shared with me give us the opportunity to hold ourselves accountable for the feelings and emotions we allow to live unresolved within us.
By doing so, we can take back our power by choosing to address unresolved, challenging circumstances in our lives in a healthy way and focusing on the thoughts we know will result in inner peace.
In Jack’s example, he was justified in his experience of anger and hurt at the events that occurred in the first place. He addressed the situation at hand in the best way he could with his brother-in-law and fulfilled the debts of their business responsibly; no additional action was needed to resolve the situation on his part.
But, Jack realized that his initial anger and hurt had festered into resentment and bitterness.
While emotions like anger, sadness, and hurt are primary emotions and can be part of a healthy response to something that you experience in the present moment, resentment and bitterness are second-hand emotions.
Second-hand emotions rarely, if ever, have anything to do with the present moment. The cause of resentment almost always lies in past traumas, a past transgression, or a build up of hurts and wrongs, either real or perceived.
The hard truth is this- you are the only person that can free yourself from resentment and bitterness.
Take the next steps on your journey to let go of resentment and find forgiveness and happiness.
In addition to the exercise I shared with you in this blog post, there are many effective ways to lessen the resentment and bitterness you might feel, including:
- Practice gratitude: Intentionally practicing gratitude, even for the small things, is a great way to increase positive emotions and stay in the present moment
- Relaxation techniques: Like breathwork and meditation can help lessen negative emotions, lower stress levels, and help you interrupt the pattern of negative thoughts that can come when we experience resentment
- Healthy distraction: Activities like physical exercise, hobbies, and opportunities to learn can help us spend less time ruminating on past events and provide meaningful opportunities to invest in our present lives
- Focus on the big picture: Often, the events that we hold resentment over are small compared to our potential. Your future holds genuinely good things for you, why sacrifice them to focus on something that happened in the past?
And if you’ve been holding on to pain, anger or resentment from the past, and you’d like help letting it go, I’ve created a free guided audio meditation just for you!
Download and listen to this meditation to help you begin to experience forgiveness for those you feel have hurt you. It’s time to free yourself from the past and more fully experience all of the love, connection, happiness and peace of mind you desire now.