10/16/2014 10:40 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

6 Steps to Forgiving People

Shakespeare wrote that the two most bitter enemies are those who once loved each other. Here's how to find healing through forgiveness.

1. Recognize the problem isn't him or her. It's us.
It's never someone "out there." It's in here.

Hatred is the only time in life where we create a prison, lock ourselves in, hold onto the key and believe the guilty are somehow being punished.

There's only a handful of people in my history who I genuinely loathed. And it was because of the way I was treated. Years later, when I confronted them separately, they barely remembered it. One of them couldn't recall the event at all.

We tend to believe that by despising someone, our attitude somehow makes them suffer. But they're living their own lives, unaffected by our inner struggle.

2. Recognize that we choose to be the victim in our story... or the hero.
The hero is the protagonist in every story. The person we root for. The person we aspire to be.

The victim is the whiner, the one who believes, "the world revolves around me." He or she allows other characters in the story to control him or her.

I don't want my happiness or role in life to be dependent on the wavering emotions, words and decisions of others who I can't control.

We've all been there, haven't we? We've been taken advantage of, foole, and we were victims for a short period of time. But we can't keep playing the victim if we want to be happy.

Life is more rewarding and exciting when we leave our victimhood status behind and become the protagonist of our life story.

3. Recognize that we too have often needed forgiveness from others.
I need forgiveness every day. I don't have the world figured out and never will. I've said and done things when my emotions flared, looked back in hindsight and wanted to crawl in a hole to hide.

"Dear Mouth, why can't you just stay shut?" I ask myself.

Did you know when we're emotional, the emotional side of our brain actually heats and "out shouts" the logical side? That's why when people are emotional, their behavior can be shocking.

Fights, killings, saying words they don't mean, "overreacting," to put it lightly.

We all yearn for forgiveness and desire it from loved ones -- even from strangers.

4. Recognize that hate is often a pendulum swing from our love.
In my personal experience, the people who hurt me... I genuinely cared about them.

I've found that the more I was hurt, I had in equal measure loved and invested into their lives.

When people are hurting, they need a comforter -- not a commentator. But once we heal and the sun shines again, what if we choose to be thankful for having met them, known them and for the lessons those encounters taught us? They made us wiser and more thankful for the people in our lives who love us through all circumstances.

We are never thankful for the pain. But we are often thankful for the lessons we learned from the pain.

5. Recognize that we should never apologize for loving someone.
When I love, I become more of a lover. When I hate, I become more of a hater. If they can't handle my love, that's their problem -- not mine. I'm not going to turn into a hater.

I want to be known as someone others know they can love, confide in, spend time with... and feel safe, wanted and glad to be in my presence.

6. Know that living a beautiful life after all that happened is the best revenge.
Let's be careful here. If our attitude is at a healed, healthy, balanced state, we won't care about revenge or if they approve of us. We'll be too busy living out our happy life.

But if you need motivation to make that first step toward forgiveness, think on number six as you take your initial steps toward forgiveness.

In Closing:
Cognitive psychology teaches that when our minds dwell on the negative in life, we become negative toward all we encounter. This impacts our mood, and that will impact our bodies.

If we want to love life and be glad to be alive, we must do this one thing: Alter how we choose to respond to what we encounter.

My friend Burt has a PhD in Clinical Psychology. He said that since each of us interact with the world through our own individual point of view, or "point of reference," it is impossible for us to separate fantasy from reality.

Doesn't that explain why we often say about others, "What in the world was he or she thinking?" and "What planet do they live on?" We believe the story we tell ourselves.

Don't underestimate the power of the human mind. Our mind directs all we think, say, and do. Let's take care of it.


Check out The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story told from the male perspective by James Russell Lingerfelt. The novel helps readers find healing after severed relationships.

The Mason Jar movie is scheduled for pre-production in 2015, and will be directed in the same dramatic and romantic tones as The Notebook (2004) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, or subscribe to his email list for updates.