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How to start forgiving the people who’ve harmed you

by Samantha Antrum

Photo: Theprayingwoman.com

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You’re out here and you’re grinding on your journey to living your best life. And while on that journey, you run into some people who don't have your best interests in mind. What do you do once you realize you’ve let someone like that into your life and they’ve already harmed you? How do you recover? 

These are the kinds of questions I’ve been grappling with over the past few months. I live in Los Angeles, where 99.997 percent of the people I meet do not care about my best interests. It’s fairly easy to identify people who are outright fake (they usually look through you instead of at you and ask superficial questions about your job). But, I’ve found that it’s not quite as easy for me to see that someone is causing me harm after I’ve grown close to them. 

This has been the case with a recent ex-friend. I became close to them very quickly and didn’t see the extent to which they used me for my money, time and emotional support. I invested deeply in that person because they were my friend and I cared about them, but I did not understand that giving those things without receiving that same level of emotional support in return would cause me harm. When this person told me they could no longer be my friend, I was both devastated and baffled. “How is it,” I wondered, “that the person I’ve been supporting can no longer be my friend? They haven’t done anything to support me!” 

I found that moment extremely hurtful. It also proved to be a moment of enlightenment; I started to see how much I invested in that person to my own detriment. I put their needs before my own and I wasn’t taking care of myself. Now that I saw how much harm this friendship caused me, I needed to recover. 

Through a series of conversations with friends and family, I realized that I needed to let go of the relationship, let go of trying to understand what went wrong and focus in on forgiveness. I had a difficult time with this concept — I believe in forgiveness, but I also don't think a person who manipulates and takes advantage of me deserved to be absolved of those actions. Thing is, forgiveness isn’t really about the other person. It’s about forgiving and not faulting yourself. So in order to get to the point of forgiveness, I learned, I had to heal. 

Healing is the way to all things good and prosperous. It took time for me to get this, and I’m not there yet. But I finally understand that the only thing I can do to feel better about what happened is work on myself. 

For me, healing means a few things: exercise, trying new activities, therapy, listening to music, crying, therapy, processing the events with friends, more therapy. Regardless of the activity, I do these things with forgiveness in mind. Because ultimately, forgiveness is the key to truly empowering myself to move on. 

What are some things you are doing to forgive the people who’ve harmed you?