How to Forgive When You Just Can’t Let Go

Hi Sweet Friend,

But what if you can’t forgive?

I wanted to kick off this blog by extolling the virtues of forgiveness. Every faith agrees that forgiveness is the seat of liberation. It allows us to be fully present in the moment, rather than stuck in the past. However, try as I might, I just can’t muster up the energy to write a big soaring blog on something I’m still having trouble with.

The truth is, sometimes forgiveness feels impossible. Have you been there? Are you there now? Is there someone in your life that no matter how hard you try, how many books you read, how many lectures or workshops you attend, you still can’t forgive? Are you tough on yourself for that? Me too.

Today I want to talk about what we can do if we’re not quite ready or able to let go. And I’m really interested in your thoughts too. Because there’s nothing worse than feeling stuck.

Forgiveness doesn’t only resolve our past, it alleviates our fear of the future. When we hold onto thoughts, memories or traumas, we’re unconsciously attempting to protect ourselves from experiencing that pain again. It can be a complicated process that takes time (not a prescription pill you pop to make it all better). As someone who’s lived with chronic disease for almost 2 decades, I’ve learned that sometimes there are no short cuts. Forgiveness takes a similar kind of loving patience and ability to accept where we are right now. All healing happens in the right season. It can’t be rushed. Please don’t yell at your kale.

So for me, the first step is to stop forcing and judging. The more I judge myself the more negative, fear-based energy I bring to the situation. This leads to compulsively vomiting that awful word “should”, which only increases my inability to let the darn thing go. “You should be over this by now. You should forgive. You’re a Hay House author for Godsake, a supposed model spiritual citizen, if you can’t forgive you certainly have no business in the business of self-help. Give back your book deal, roll up your blog, join the Hells Angels–you’re done sister.”

And on and on. Sound familiar? (Hopefully not as dramatic.)

It’s pretty obvious that this kind of thinking gets us nowhere. In fact, it only dials up our dislike (or hatred) for the person we’re having a hard time forgiving! Because if they didn’t do such and such then we wouldn’t feel like such a bad person for not forgiving! It’s sorta funny really.

Release the pressure. It’s okay to press pause on problem solving before making your next move. We tend to focus on action and results, but sometimes there’s a gap between the place we really are and the place we want to be. Here’s a baby step that helps narrow that gap: Forgive yourself for not forgiving.

Forgive yourself for not being ready–yet. Send compassion to yourself–first. Send love to the place that is so hurt it keeps you from taking one step forward. Sit quietly. Think of the pain you’re feeling. Breathe. Put your hand on your heart and silently say “It’s OK. I love you and I forgive you for being angry, sad, stuck, etc.”. Use whatever words bring you peace. Every time I do this it releases blocked energy. And I do it a lot. I do it whenever I start to judge or attack myself in any way.

This also works if you’re the person who needs to be forgiven, but you haven’t been, or perhaps never will be. It’s not about condoning poor behavior, it’s about thawing the parts of us that stay frozen in old pain and patterns. While I can’t go back in a time machine or control what other people think, I can be gentle and forgive myself for not having the tools in the past that I have now. I can make space for healing, whether that person thinks I deserve it or not. In some cases, I absolutely wish I could have done things differently. I may not ever have the chance to be forgiven and that might hurt my heart. But luckily, that’s not the end of the story.

When we start from a place of loving ourselves, no matter what, our next step will always be the best one we could have chosen. And that’s enough.

Your turn: What baby steps do you take to forgive?

Peace & pauses,

Kris Carr

P.S. Let's take a moment and breathe...

Meditation is one of the easiest ways for you to clear your mind. Start by checking out my Self-Care for Busy People meditation album—with each track under 15 minutes, you’ll find it easy to fit a mindfulness practice into your busy, beautiful life. Sample the Pep Talk meditation today!