Truly letting go of real or perceived transgressions by a trusted friend or family member who you assumed would never do what they did is, can feel like a difficult task. We have to forgive in order to remove the stain on our heart, and often, in order to keep peace and love flowing with others in our world.
And then there is the concept of forgiving some of our sports heroes, be it Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, or Lance Armstrong. Or the politicians who betray our trust with their lies and bad behavior, such as in our country Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, and Congress in general.
Regardless of who we feel betrayed us, we feel such feelings as injured, crushed, resentful, bitter, or indignant. If we don’t come to terms with what happened, we carry those past betrayals into the present. We think poorly about them and at some obvious or subtle level cut them out of our hearts.
Waiting for the other person or persons to acknowledge their alleged wrongdoings is likely a lifetime proposition and most often, it never happens. So what can we do to move through our own feelings of betrayal?
Here are a few suggestions to get to forgiveness and moving on:
1. We must accept that what happened happened, truly mourn the loss of what was, and say “good-bye” to the past. This involves realizing people’s reasons for what they do has nothing to do with you and may be for reasons you will never know. Let go of taking it personally. Their choices are theirs and say little about you, so you’re the one who needs to let go so you’ll feel better.
2. Allow yourselves to express the sadness, anger, and maybe fear physically and constructively, by identifying the specific transgression and then repeating “I forgive you.” Marianne lied to me about using drugs, and I forgive her. Marianne did what she did, and I forgive her.” Repeat the words “I forgive you,” even if you don’t believe them yet, rigorously interrupting the “no ways” or “you’ve got to be kiddings.” You might have to do this repeatedly to honor all the emotions you feel about that person and event.
3. After processing your emotions, you need to accept a few things: “people are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.” “Sometimes people make poor choices and act out of their own pain and fear.” “They did the best they could at the time.”
4. Remember their humanness – their fallibility. Attend to their good qualities, and decide what makes sense in terms of how you’ll choose to view and interact with them from a loving (or at least a stance of acceptance).
5. Now you’ll be more able to separate the person from their deed. You are ready to take action. Look within for the high road, and take whatever action feels appropriate, doable, and necessary so that you feel complete. Maybe you need more information from them about what motivated their behavior. Maybe not. But if so, don’t argue or debate what they say, listen closely so you understand their point of view.
Whether sports hero, entertainer, politician, or friend, look within your heart to decide what you need to do in order to feel fully resolved.
When communicating, talk about yourself and stay specific to that one event. As appropriate, you can make doable requests and define clear boundaries and consequences for the future. If agreements are then broken, you must follow through.
What’s the upside to moving through the intense feeling of being betrayed? You come back to yourself, heal your heart, lighten your load, and move on.