How can you forgive someone if they never apologize for hurting you?
The great news is that it is possible! I have learned how to do this through Buddhist practices. A book that I have studied and constantly return to is one written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: “How to be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World.” This is a quick read and easy to reference when needed.
Here are some steps that help me reach forgiveness.
1. Everyone deserves happiness
It can be tough to think about this when someone has hurt you. I step back and imagine them in an objective way. I remind myself that they are a human being just like me and at one time they were even a baby who needed to be cared for. Imagining them as a baby helps me to think objectively. Then I tell myself that they also want a happy and meaningful life just as I do. In his book “How to be Compassionate,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “We all want happiness and do not want suffering…” This is definitely one way I can relate to everyone in the world. Often times people who hurt you do so because they are not happy and they are suffering. Some people are not strong enough to deal with that internally so they act externally against others. Once I understand this about someone I am able to take an analytical approach to a situation and be on my way to the path of forgiveness.
2. Think about them while meditating
I am a firm believer in the benefits that meditation has on our bodies and most importantly on our mental attitudes. Meditation has been proven to strengthen logical thinking and emotional intelligence. It can be intimidating at first but there are great resources online to help you get started. The first time I ever meditated about someone who hurt me, I searched for guidance and found a meditation instructor Tara Brach. She has a website with free guided meditations. I listened to a 25 minute meditation with my eyes closed and did this for weeks. My years of harbored anger vanished! It just takes some dedicated time and a quiet space.
Her website is: https://www.tarabrach.com
3. It is not personal
It is difficult not to take something personal when it seems so personal especially when someone directly hurts you and your loved ones. My first instinct is to take it personal but I then go back to practices one and two. I think objectively about the person. I think about how that person is suffering and is just yearning for happiness and meaning in their life. I think of this compassionately. Be careful! It can be easy to find joy in thinking of the suffering of others especially those who have hurt you but this is the opposite of compassion. In his book “How to be Compassionate,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “When someone is trying to take advantage of you, first you must clearly understand that this other person is a human being, and has a right to be happy.”
4. Harboring hate and anger leads to more suffering
It may feel satisfying when you have negative thoughts about someone who has hurt you but more often than not that person doesn’t care and is continuing to live their life. When we obsess over the hurtful things people have done to us then our minds become full of hatred, anger, and jealousy. We do become what we think about. If we are not able to forgive someone it just leads us to a life of suffering and unhappiness. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives some insight, “If you nurse hatred, you will never be happy, even in the lap of luxury…Although anger may lead to temporary satisfaction for a brief period, ultimately anger will cause further difficulties.” Rather than allowing someone to strip you of your intelligence, why not use them as an opportunity to gain patience and wisdom?
Through dedicated practice I have learned how to achieve forgiveness. It is never easy and it takes continuous practice and sometimes many meditation sessions to finally reach forgiveness. Some words that resonate with me during any challenging situation are these, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
“Try to imagine that your enemies are purposefully making trouble in order to help you accumulate positive forces for shaping the future…We need enemies to strengthen our practice, and from this spiritual viewpoint we can even be grateful to them.”
The next time you are presented with a hurtful situation I encourage you to try these steps. Do you want someone else to be in control of your happiness? I know I don’t.
Written by Stephanie Briggs
“How to Be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Guided meditations by Tara Brach: https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/
Often times we are presented with challenges that create turmoil in our life. These moments are most important in helping us build inner strength, patience, and compassion. As a stepmother I have had to deal with difficult circumstances and it is through Buddhist practices that I have learned to live a peaceful life amongst the turmoil.
1. Remember it’s not personal
This one is probably one of the hardest concepts to practice. Usually everybody is looking for one thing: happiness. They want and deserve happiness just like you. When someone seems to be attacking your character, it’s truly not personal. They are dealing with their own issues about something and due to their unhappiness they are taking it out on you. Just remind yourself it is not personal.
2. Don’t argue
Would you try to rationalize with someone under the influence? People who are set in their ways aren’t going to change their minds about you or a situation. This does not mean you are giving up the right to have an opinion but rather than wasting your time trying to rationalize just be as calm and compassionate as possible. I find that less is more. The less you engage, the more you are likely to not become reactive when you feel attacked.
3. Be compassionate
This relates to number one. A key concept in Buddhism is to practice compassion towards others. This might be mistaken for allowing people to walk all over you. You might also think that you need to outwardly show the person. You can show compassion inwardly and think about this person as you meditate. The person does not always need to know. So how do we do this? When you sit to meditate you can think about bringing a bright light to that person. You can imagine being out in a beautiful field with them giving them loving-kindness. If you know about their past you can remind yourself about their hardships. Most importantly, always remembering they deserve happiness like you is at the core of this concept.
Meditation has been around for so long but only recently we are beginning to understand the neurological benefits of it. Meditation increases the grey matter in our brain which is associated with learning and memory. Meditation has also been proven to decrease stress and anxiety and improve self-awareness and the ability to be compassionate. There are many different forms of meditation. You can choose a simple approach and start with a short 5 minute meditation. You can also learn a mantra (a repeated sound or word) and reflect on the meaning of the mantra. Any form will have extraordinary benefits to your health.
You do not need to be religious to practice the concepts of Buddhism. These methods have transformed my life and way of thinking. I have also learned to not be so hard on myself. We are human and will react at times in ways we will later regret and that is okay. You cannot obtain wisdom if you never make mistakes. What positive methods do you practice when faced with difficult people?
Written by Stephanie Briggs
My Mantra: Strive to be the best me and improve a little every day. Be compassionate, especially to those who may not practice it. Continue to learn and love. Take a moment multiple times each day to breathe. Forgive myself and forgive others. Read books. Live what I preach. Accept others. And above all, laugh every single day.