The art of forgiveness: 10 simple ways to release resentment (so you feel better)

Eliza Hartley by Eliza Hartley | February 7, 2024, 11:24 am

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the toughest lessons in life I’ve had to grapple with.

Living in a world that often favors vengeance, if you’re someone like me who values forgiveness, it can feel a bit isolated.

More often than not, people mistake your forgiving nature for weakness or foolishness. In fact, you’ve probably been called a pushover or naive more times than you’d like to recall.

Sound familiar? If it does, continue reading about the 10 simple ways to release resentment and embrace the art of forgiveness.

1) Acknowledge your feelings

You see, forgiveness is not about denying or suppressing your emotions. It’s about acknowledging them, understanding them, and then letting them go.

At times, people mistake this process for vulnerability or weakness. But trust me, it takes a lot of strength to truly face your emotions head-on.

People might label you as overly emotional or sensitive, but they couldn’t be more wrong. In reality, recognizing your feelings doesn’t make you weak—it makes you human. 

2) Practice empathy

Practicing empathy has been a game changer for me in my journey towards forgiveness.

There was this one time when someone close to me did something that really hurt me. At first, all I could feel was anger and betrayal.

But instead of holding onto these feelings, I tried to put myself in their shoes. I tried to see things from their perspective.

I realized that they were going through a tough time themselves and their actions were a reflection of their internal struggle, not their feelings for me.

The moment I started practicing empathy, my feelings of resentment began to ease. I started seeing them not as the villain, but as another human being capable of making mistakes. 

3) Express your pain

It sounds counterintuitive, but expressing your pain can actually lead to healing.

In a study done by the University of Texas, researchers found that writing about negative experiences can improve physical health, enhance mental functioning and even boost performance at work.

When you’ve been wronged, it’s natural to feel hurt and betrayed. But bottling up these feelings can lead to resentment.

Expressing your pain, whether it’s through writing in a journal, talking to a friend, or speaking directly with the person who hurt you, allows you to confront your feelings head-on.

Once you’ve let these emotions out of your system, there’s more room for forgiveness and healing.

4) Let go of revenge

I know, it’s easier said than done. When you’ve been hurt, it’s natural to want the person who hurt you to feel the same pain. But holding onto this desire for revenge only fuels your resentment.

By choosing to let go of revenge, you’re not saying that what the person did was okay. Rather, you’re choosing your peace of mind over bitterness.

People might interpret this as letting the person off the hook, but it’s not about them—it’s about you and your healing process.

Letting go of revenge doesn’t mean you forget what happened or condone the behavior. It means you are choosing not to let it control your life anymore.

5) Understand that forgiveness is a process

Let’s be brutally honest here. Forgiveness isn’t a one-time deal. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch and suddenly all the hurt and anger are gone.

It’s a process—a sometimes long, arduous process.

There will be days when you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve made progress, and there will be days when the pain feels as fresh as when it first happened.

And that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.

Some people might tell you to “just get over it” or “move on already”, but they don’t understand that forgiveness isn’t linear. It’s messy, it’s complicated, and it’s entirely personal.

You have to allow yourself the time and space to heal, even if it feels like you’re taking two steps back for every step forward.

6) Practice self-compassion

When you’re on the path of forgiveness, don’t forget to extend that same kindness and compassion to yourself.

You see, it’s easy to blame ourselves when things go wrong. We replay the situation over and over, thinking of what we could have done differently.

But this self-blame only adds to our pain and makes the journey towards forgiveness even more challenging.

Be gentle with yourself. Understand that it’s okay to feel hurt, to feel angry, or to feel confused. These feelings don’t make you weak or flawed—they make you human.

People might tell you to toughen up or stop feeling sorry for yourself, but remember, there’s strength in vulnerability. There’s strength in allowing yourself to feel your emotions fully, to sit with them, and then slowly let them go.

7) Seek professional help

Let’s be real. Sometimes, the hurt runs so deep that you just can’t handle it on your own.

Maybe it’s a betrayal by a loved one, a painful childhood memory, or a traumatic event that you just can’t seem to shake off.

And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.

Sometimes, we all need a little help, and there’s absolutely no shame in seeking professional guidance. Therapists and counselors are trained to help you navigate through your feelings and guide you towards healing and forgiveness.

Trust me, reaching out for help when you need it is one of the bravest things you can do. It shows that you’re committed to your healing journey and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to move forward.

8) Find humor in the situation

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should start laughing about the time your best friend betrayed you or when your partner cheated on you.

But finding humor in life, even in painful situations, can help lighten your emotional load.

Maybe it’s laughing at the fact that you can now write a bestselling novel with all the drama you’ve been through. Or maybe it’s chuckling over how you could probably give a Ted Talk about betrayal, with all the first-hand experience you have.

It allows you to see things from a different perspective, to realize that this too shall pass, and that one day, this pain will be just a chapter in your book of life.

9) Stop playing the victim

Alright, it’s time for some tough love.

Yes, you’ve been hurt. Yes, you’ve been wronged. But the more you identify yourself as the victim, the more power you give to the person who hurt you.

You see, when you constantly see yourself as the victim, you’re essentially saying that someone else has control over your feelings, your thoughts, and your life.

People might tell you that you’re being too harsh on yourself, but this isn’t about being harsh—it’s about reclaiming your power. It’s about taking control of your narrative and realizing that while you can’t change what happened to you, you can change how you respond to it.

10) Choose forgiveness for your peace

At the end of the day, forgiveness is a choice—a choice that you make for yourself, not for the person who hurt you.

This is your journey, your healing process, and your peace at stake.

So choose to let go of the resentment. Choose to embrace forgiveness. And most importantly, choose to prioritize your peace over their actions.

Final thoughts

Forgiveness is often misunderstood. It can be seen as a sign of weakness, naivety, or even as a form of acceptance of the wrong done to you. But in truth, it’s a reflection of your strength, your maturity, and your commitment to your personal peace and healing.

In the end, it’s your journey, your process, and your decision to make. And it’s those decisions that will shape not just your present but also your future.