Even good friends will sometimes hurt our feelings. Since we're all human and make mistakes, consider embracing forgiveness when it comes to your friends. If you don't, you won't be friends with people for long. If you realize that most friends will probably hurt your feelings at least once in your life, you'll focus less on what happened and more on what you can do now going forward.
Conflict isn't a bad thing, as friends who argue in a healthy way actually have better relationships than those that avoid conflict altogether. In order to keep your friendship strong, you will need to forgive. But how, exactly, do you do that when you're hurt?
Before You Forgive
Many times a friend will make a mistake and apologize. If you say you accept their apology and really don't, this will only foster underlying resentment. There are many reasons why you might not feel ready to let go of your anger, including:
- You don't feel that your friend is really sorry.
- You are still shocked that your friend did what they did.
- You are harboring resentment for some of the other things your friend has done in the past.
"You may think you’re incapable of forgiving this person, yet to hold on to the resentment and pain only plunges the ache deeper," notes Sarah Kane on PsychCentral. "You must identify the words or deeds your friend said or did that precipitated the hurt before you can proceed to the next step in the forgiveness process."
If you're struggling with moving on from an argument, you have to discuss your feelings with your pal. You could say:
- "I'd like to forgive and forget but your apology just doesn't seem sincere to me. Are you really sorry for what you did? It's important to me that we resolve this so we can move on."
- "I want to forgive you, but I'm just still so shocked over what happened that I need a bit of time. Can we talk again next week so I can process what happened?"
- "I'd like to forgive this instance, but I can't because I have been holding on to anger from the last time you gossiped behind my back. I don't want to keep bringing up the past, so can we talk about this again and finally put it to rest?"
When to Revisit the Past
The only time you can bring up past mistakes is if there is a pattern. If the things your friend is doing wrong seem to escalate, you can then use the past as a point of reference. But be careful with this. Focus on the specific instance and how it makes you feel, and use the past as a supporting point rather than the main one.
- "I keep forgiving this, but you have been an hour late the last three times we met for lunch. I get worried when this happens, and I also feel really stupid sitting here by myself. I don't want this to continue being an issue between us. What can we do so it doesn't happen again?"
- "I forgave you the first two times I caught you flirting with my boyfriend, but now it looks like there is a pattern. I feel as if you are disrespecting me when you do this. I want to continue being friends with you, so this behavior has to stop."
Consider these approaches to avoid:
- "You're late plus you still haven't paid me back the money you owe me." This brings up two different issues.
- "You don't respect me. You never said congratulations on my promotion plus I heard you make fun of my outfit behind my back." The disrespecting behavior is the gossip behind your back, not the lack of congratulations. These are two different issues that probably make you feel two different ways. Don't lump them together for more impact.
Accepting an Apology
Don't say you accept an apology and then bring up the issue somewhere later down the road. As difficult as it may be, when you forgive, you have to give your friend a clean slate. It's never okay to continually bring up their mistakes and link them together as if your friend is just trying to hurt you over and over. Deal with one specific instance at a time in which you forgive your friend and move on from there.
When you are convinced that your friend is sorry, accept their apology and put it out of your mind. Don't continually bring it up or use it as a weapon the next time they do something wrong.
Sometimes people fail to forgive because they think it just makes whatever their friend did okay. That's not at all true. When you forgive, it allows you to lift that anger or hurt from your shoulders so it doesn't continue to interfere with your happiness. It doesn't mean your friend was right in what they did; it simply means their mistake doesn't have the power to hurt you anymore.