Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 instant tips for your mental health.

You are here: Home » How To Be Happy » Social Happiness

5 Tips to Help You Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally


Have you been hurt by someone recently? Whether the hurt was caused intentionally or by accident, you may find it difficult to forgive the person responsible. This may be because you don't think the person who hurt you deserves forgiveness, or simply because you have no idea where to even begin. Why and how should you forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally?

The answer to this question is simple: Unforgiveness may be bad for your health. Unforgiveness is the negative emotional reaction that is opposed to forgiveness and is often characterized by anger, frustration, or even fear. And like all prolonged stress, it will mess with your health. Forgiveness, on the other hand, seems to promote a happier and healthier state both psychologically and physically.

But that is just the tip of the forgiveness iceberg. In this article, I will bring you examples of what makes forgiveness so great, and more importantly, show you ways how to forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally.

Research on forgiveness

Unforgiveness is the negative emotional reaction that is opposed to forgiveness and is often characterized by anger, frustration or even fear. In his book Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Theory and Application, Everett L. Worthington, Jr. likens unforgiveness to a stress reaction and like all prolonged stress, it will mess with your health.

Everett L. Worthington, Jr. is a clinical psychologist and probably the world’s leading specialist on forgiveness. He has researched the topic for decades. In an article co-authored with Michael Scherer, he makes the distinction between decisional and emotional forgiveness.

Decisional forgiveness is the decision to forgive and behave “nicely” towards the person who hurt you, while the anger and other emotions may remain, whereas emotional forgiveness replaces negative emotions with positive ones. Although both Worthington and Scherer (as well as other researchers) believe emotional forgiveness to be healthier in the long run, decisional forgiveness can often lead to emotional forgiveness.

As mentioned before, forgiveness seems to be good for your physical and mental well-being. Different researchers have found forgiveness to have the following health benefits:

Don't Miss Out On Happiness!

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 instant tips for your mental health.

How to forgive someone in 5 steps

Clearly, forgiveness seems to be a good thing with several benefits. But how do you go about forgiving someone who has hurt you emotionally?

1. Decide to forgive

Although emotional forgiveness may be preferred over decisional forgiveness, the first step on any journey is the decision to take it and that applies here as well. Occasionally forgiveness may come on its own - you may wake up one day to find that you are no longer angry and hurt about something or at someone - but the proactive approach has to start with the decision to try and forgive.

For example, a close friend of mine had a hard time getting over a rough breakup. It's generally accepted that time heals all wounds, but hers just didn’t seem to heal at all. She didn’t start to heal until she realized that she had been picking open her proverbial wound again and again by latching onto the hurt that her ex had caused her and letting the anger hurt her even more. By making the decision to forgive, she was finally on the road to recovery.

Science backs this up, too. In their study, Davis and colleagues found that the decision to forgive was correlated with greater forgiveness and happiness down the road.

2. Take your time and lower your expectation

The decision to forgive may come with a set of expectations for yourself. You may think that the negative emotions will disappear by the end of the week or that you will be able to have a conversation with the person who hurt you without wanting to cry. Most likely that is not the case, because the decision to forgive is only the first step. Do not set yourself arbitrary deadlines and goals, because you may never meet them. Instead, take your time and follow the road, and you will end up in the right place.

The decision to forgive may take time, too. Maybe you’re reading this article because of a recent argument and you think you’re ready to forgive. That may be the case, but maybe you need some more time to properly feel and work through the anger and hurt. Trust yourself - if forgiveness doesn’t feel right at this moment, then it probably isn’t.

3. Forgive for yourself, not for others

If you’re reading this article because your friends and loved ones tell you it’s time to let go of something, then bookmark the page and come back when you feel that the time is right. This is closely related to the previous point, but also one of the golden rules of forgiveness - you should always forgive for your own sake, not someone else’s.

Forgiveness isn't something you do for the person who wronged you; it's something you do for you.

Andrea Brandt

Forgive because you want to move on and feel better, not because the person who hurt you deserves it or because people close to you think you should do it.

Think back to when you were a child and you had a conflict with another kid. More often than not, parents and teachers made one of you apologize and the other accept the apology, but did either of you really mean it? Every time I was made to accept an apology in front of someone, the insincerity hurt me more than the hurtful event itself, and I imagine that I am not alone in this.

4. Emphasize with the person who hurt you emotionally

If you have been hurt, the following utterance may be quite familiar to you: “I don’t understand how they could do something like this to me! What kind of person would do this to someone? I hate them!”

We are usually negatively-minded towards things we don’t understand. Thus, forgiveness may be aided by trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment. That does not mean that you should seek to justify the actions that hurt you. Rather, try to see where the actions might have come from.

Keep in mind that even if you can understand the other person’s behavior towards you, it does not mean that you don’t have the right to be hurt anymore. Understanding does not mean forgiving right away, but it can be a powerful tool on the road to forgiveness. It requires some conscious effort, but in a conflict, I always try to see where the other party is coming from. Occasionally, this practice helps to protect me from getting my feelings hurt, thus preventing the need for forgiveness.

5. Put your feelings into words

The time is right, you have made the decision to proactively be forgiving, you have empathized... But you still feel angry, hurt and frustrated?

Talking or writing about it might help. If you just need a friendly ear, then talk to your friends or loved ones. If you feel that you would prefer a more structured approach or professional insight, look into counseling opportunities near you.

If you feel that talking about your experience is impossible, you can try writing a letter. Research has shown that expressive writing with empathy and understanding in mind can promote forgiveness, and it is a common therapeutic technique.

At home, you can just sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind related to the hurtful event. You can start by writing down what happened and how you felt about it, or you can write down how you think the person who hurt you feels or why they acted that way. You don’t have to send the letter to the person who hurt you - just like forgiveness itself, this letter is just for you. You can leave the letter in a drawer and choose to reread it later, or you can burn it.

Final thoughts on forgiveness

Forgiveness is good for your health because it is all about being good and kind towards yourself. You probably try to minimize other stressors in your life, so why would you hang onto something as stressful as unforgiveness? Of course, like all things worth having, forgiveness isn’t easy to achieve, but with a little work, time, and some help from the ideas outlined above, you can learn to let go of the anger and move on to better things.

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 instant tips for your mental health.

Closing words

If you're struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally, or if you feel like sharing your journey on the road to forgiveness, I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below. As you get better at understanding forgiveness, you're guaranteed to better steer your life in a better direction. That's where happiness and positivity are.

Are you finding it hard to forgive someone who's hurt you emotionally? Or do you want to share your own experience on handling forgiveness? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Maili

Maili Tirel

School psychologist

School psychologist, teacher and internet counselor from Estonia. Passionate about coffee, reading, dancing, and singing in the shower, much to the neighbors’ dismay. Counseling catchphrase: “It’s okay!“

20 thoughts on “5 Tips to Help You Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally”

  1. I was dating someone for 15months and broke up about 4 times and every time i would come back after 2 or 3 days. He tells me hes madly in love with me ,i love him too, that hes never love anyone like me even being married before for 22 years hes 60 and im 54 . I've been divorced for 18 years my ex cheated on me . My boy friend also has ptsd and i dont know how to forgive him for the hurting things he has said to me when we argue. I shut down and cant talk when im angry.

    Reply
  2. I have a hard time forgiving my ex husband and the lady he cheated and had a baby with 2 years into our marriage. She would constantly call my phone and harass me trying to prove that he was with her and always post things on social media to “prove” that she was still having dealings with him. It hurt me so bad when we got a divorce because all I wanted was our family and now that is gone because of his poor choices. He says he wants his family but he continues to deal with her. I want to forgive but don’t know how it’s possible.

    Reply
    • Wow, that sucks. I don't have any other words for it, I'm afraid. Even if you're not able to forgive him (which to be frank, I would 100% understand), I hope you'll still be able to find happiness yourself.

      All the best,

      Hugo

      Reply
  3. 10/28/22-The man I was with a total of 21 years has left me and our boys to "find happiness", with a woman he had been "seeing" for 8 months before he left this time. I say this time because I have taken him back 3 other times he has cheated on me thinking that it was what was best for my kids. I realize now I have never truly forgiven him from 132 years ago when he first left and cheated on me. Im working on forgiveness as I truly believe I wont move on without it and it will only get more self destructive with my weight and anger. Thank you for listening and im going to use your tips to move forward with forgiveness.

    Reply
    • Hi Lori,

      Thanks for sharing these words. I'm glad you found value in our work. I hope you find happiness in the future and that your willingness to forgive will help you find it. I'm sure other readers will be inspired to read your words.

      Thank you for that.

      Hugo

      Reply
  4. I can't forgive the guy that promised to marry me, he was separated for 15 yrs and we live as husband and wife for almost 2 years. Suddenly broke my heart telling me that he will do the will of God and serve the Lord because his xwife came. I can't get his point and it's so painful on my part because he don't ask any apology. He never ask for forgiveness in giving me so much pain.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing, I hope you will find happiness in the future. Your past may be negative, but your future doesn't have to be. I hope you will be able to move on from this bad experience...

      Reply
  5. Hi,

    So I have been dating this guys for over 5 years. During that 5 years for 4 years I allowed him to constantly disrespect me, flirt with other women. Constantly took insults until I felt like I was losing myself. And because it was something that constantly happened, it had affected me so badly, I lacked self esteem, self love and confidence. I couldn’t take it anymore and I began having an affair with someone from my past. I ended the affair a while after which I can say lasted for 1 year. So beginning of this year I made the decision to leave all that behind me. Tried working on my relationship. Then in April my partner found out the truth and broke things off which is understandable. After 3 months he came back. But I still have a bit of hate in my heart towards him. Reason, I felt like for 4 years I stayed through all his bullshit. And when I started he couldn’t take it. And my biggest regret is that I gave him the upper hand to talk down on me. So I want to work on forgiveness for him and for myself.

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      That's a rough story, thanks for sharing! I think your willingness to work on forgiveness says a lot about you. I hope it will inspire others to accept forgiveness too, as it will truly help you move on from negativity!

      All the best,

      Hugo

      Reply
  6. I want to forgive my narcissistic ex and will be following the steps outlined as much as possible. She's manipulated and lied to and about me for years. She's betrayed my loyalty and destroyed my reputation. She's manipulated her colleagues and friends into believing I'd pursue their s.o.. it's been ugly.

    Reply
  7. I'm trying to forgive my step grandmother for marrying my grandfather for what he had and trying to take advantage of him. He was in his 80s and she was only in her 30s when they married, I tried to get along with her but she didn't want to get along with me after awhile of trying to get along with her I left her in the hands of god, she'd wait til grandpa went to bed or was gone somewhere to start arguing with me for nothing, finally I got enough of her and grandpa and moved away to my own apartment, grandpa is now passed away and I didn't keep intouch with her after he died, I'm still hurt cause he raised me from a baby and how could she be so terrible acting to me, I'm trying to forgive her and I thinking maybe she didn't have a good child hood with her parents, maybe she just wasn't a happy person, I'm trying to understand her

    Reply
    • I understand your challenge, thanks for sharing this. I hope you will be able to move on in your life and forget about her. Good luck and all the best,

      Hugo

      Reply
  8. Hi,

    I am finding it hard to forgive my husband, which I have been separated from him for almost 2 years now but still have kept in touch seeing each other, because of something very hurtful he told me nine months ago. I’ve been working with the 💫 Life CoacI am finding it hard to forgive my husband, which I have been separated from him for almost 2 years now but still have kept in touch seeing each other, because of something very hurtful he told me nine months ago. I’ve been working with a life coach and therapists which has been helping tremendously but the amount of anxiety from the triggers I am still getting is making it hard for the forgiving process. It’s hard to try to forgive someone who continues to do the same things that hurt you in the past even though they say they’re trying . I am trying but I’m not sure exactly where to start. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Jackie,

      Good luck on your journey. I hope you are able to move on and live a happy life, despite your negative experiences!

      All the best,

      Hugo

      Reply
  9. I'm trying so hard to forgive my boyfriend for the last. I rarely drink and have never even been around drugs. I also have bipolar disorder. After my boyfriend moved in I realized he was a raging alcoholic. I did not know he was heavily into cocaine and meth behind my back. He was a mean drunk. He called me plenty of names, told me about other women he wanted to date, and eventually slapped me three times. I finally had a nervous collapse. One day he told me I should just go on and kill myself. I checked myself into the hospital two days later. When I got out, things got worse. Now, with the help if N. A., he has been sober and clean for 4 months. I want to move forward and be with him but there are days I feel overwhelmed and don't feel like I can forgive myself for staying with him or forgive him for his words/actions. I really want to forgive him, put this behind us, and move forward. It is hard.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing. I hope you will find forgiveness and will be able to move on from these negative experiences.

      All the best,

      Hugo

      Reply
  10. I am finding it very hard to forgive my ex (daughter mother) for emotionally tearing me down and I can’t get back up. I have so much hate for her for what she has done and become but yet I still have this spot that loves her. There is so much emotional damage that is on my chest weighing me down and it’s put me in the hospital couple times. Then seeing her with someone else breaks me. Have to hear my daughter saying that she wants mommy to live here with daddy or she want to look through her baby photos and see the happiness that we once had. It kills me. I don’t know how I can forgive her yet alone forgive myself.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Thanks for sharing this, I hope that time heals your wounds and that you'll find happiness with someone you love and that loves you back. You deserve it.

      Reply

Leave a Comment