Advice from Claire: How to Forgive People

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Are you holding onto a grudge and want to get to a place where you can forgive that person? Claire gives you some tips on how to get to a place where you are ready to forgive. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who finds herself making poor life choices after her father’s death.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:00

If you’ve been holding a grudge for too long and you know it, but how do you finally get to a place where you’re ready to forgive?

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:12

I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Forgiveness. Easier said than done right? When someone hurts or betrays you, it might feel like you’re never gonna get over it. And even after the anger fades, you may still hold on to that sense of betrayal or hurt. Maybe you have fleeting thoughts of trying to forgive the person, but each time it feels like too much work, or you just end up revisiting the initial wound and feeling hurt all over again. So you keep putting off this idea of forgiveness. Maybe you even know that it’s unhealthy to be holding this grudge, but you just can’t bring yourself to do anything about it. You may even feel pressure to forgive when you really don’t want to. After all, our wellness culture has a big obsession with the concept. goop, Oprah best selling books and morning new shows are always touting the idea of forgiveness. It’s associated with magnanimity and spiritual growth. If you can forgive, then you are an evolved human. But shit, sometimes it’s just hard or takes time. What is forgiveness even mean? Actually, let’s start with what forgiveness doesn’t mean because I think this is where people get tripped up. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to forget about what happened. forgiveness doesn’t mean that the pain and hurt they caused you isn’t a big deal. forgiveness doesn’t mean that you automatically have to renew a relationship with the person who hurt you. And forgiveness is not acceptance. Instead, forgiveness is a process. It means you’re choosing to let go of your anger. You’re stopping holding on to the hurt, and you’re relinquishing your possible desire for vengeance or retaliation. Forgiveness means accepting that what happened is now in the past, Forgiveness means recognizing that people make mistakes. And forgiveness means cultivating compassion. Okay, so that’s a little about what forgiveness i sn’t, isn’t, but you may still be asking yourself, why bother? So here are a few reasons. The first one is because forgiveness actually helps you heal. Holding on to anger and resentment, hurt and betrayal, super toxic to your body in your life at large. It can bleed over into other relationships and just drain you of energy. Forgiveness can also help bolster your other relationships. Once you’re able to cultivate the kind of compassionate mindset that forgiveness requires. It can have really positive effects on your other relationships, letting you get closer and trust others more deeply. Forgiveness also has actual health benefits. Research shows it can lower your blood pressure, muscle tension, reduce anxiety, and stress, help you sleep better, and improve your self esteem. That’s a pretty good list, in my opinion. Okay, so you’ve got the what and the why, but how do we actually go about forgiving someone who really hurt us? First, know that forgiveness takes time, you may not be ready, so don’t force it. But keep these tips on the back burner for down the road. Forced forgiveness is pretty pointless and can lead to further hurt. The big thing to know is that when you’re ready to forgive someone, you’re also going to have to really sit with those painful emotions. Maybe you’ve already done a fair amount of that. Or maybe you haven’t even really let yourself feel all the ways in which you were hurt. So start by just really letting yourself experience the emotions that come with the injustice or betrayal that occurred. This may mean some crying, some grief, some reflection on other related wounds, and that’s okay, that’s part of the process. Be kind to yourself. Next, it’s time to accept that many different factors could have played a part in what happened. Try to step into the other person’s shoes and feel out what was going on for them. It can really help to recognize that when people are in pain, they often cause pain themselves. Understanding this might help you cultivate compassion without minimizing whatever shit they pulled. It might also be important for you to reflect on any role you may have played in this whole situation. Sometimes that’s the very reason we stole on forgiveness, because it means facing some part we ourselves played at what happened. So my advice is compassion all around, compassion for them, and compassion for yourself. I love to remind myself that being a human is hard. We all fuck it up all the time. Okay, so once you’ve sorted through this stuff, and you’re really ready to forgive, it can be something you do privately. Maybe it’s just something you work through in your head and your heart or in your journal or with your therapist. You don’t even have to tell the other person you’ve forgiven them. Unless that’s important to you. In which case, maybe you sit down with them or simply write them an email. It’s entirely up to you. Once you’ve done the forgiving, then it’s time to refocus your energy. Think of it like there’s a big empty space in your heart now that was being taken up by all of that anger and hurt. What are you going to fill it up with? Commit to a new creative project or do some good deeds like volunteering in your community, or maybe just start going to regular yoga classes. Helping fill that space with positive stuff will help you stay committed to your forgiveness. For a deeper dive on forgiveness I recommend Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond tutus book that he wrote with his daughter, the book of forgiving, it walks you through a four fold process of forgiving, that can be really helpful when you’re struggling with this stuff. Remember, forgiveness is a process.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  05:32

Today’s listener question comes from someone whose life has changed dramatically after losing their father. If you have any questions relating to grief or loss, I’d love to hear from you. You can send me an email at Or you can fill out my online form at, you can find the link in the show notes. I got this form submission from Vanessa in Florida. She writes, I don’t know why I’m making so many bad decisions after my father died, I went back to my toxic job. I don’t know why. But now I want to quit. I also hate being around family and friends. Hi, Vanessa, thanks for writing. I think that everything here you’re saying are the things that a lot of people can relate to when they go through a big loss. making bad decisions going back and forth on staying in toxic environments, not wanting to be around friends and family. Grief and Loss can certainly do all of that and more. First, I just want to remind you to give yourself some self compassion here, losing a dad is really hard, it’s a really big deal. That kind of loss, no matter your age, or your relationship with him, can really cause a lot of emotional upheaval in your life. So be gentle with yourself. making bad decisions is pretty normal after a big loss like that, it’s hard to think clearly. And to know what the right course of action is. You’re also really vulnerable and tender emotionally. So sometimes when we’re in that state, we choose situations or people who make us feel safe or stable. Even if that feeling comes with a price of toxicity. It makes sense that as you’ve moved a little more through your grief, you’re now wanting to leave your job. Now that maybe you’ve stabilized just a little following the loss, you feel ready to leave your job. after all. There’s some old wisdom out there that says no one should make any big decisions in the first year of grief. But actually don’t really agree with that. First of all, sometimes we have to make some big decisions. And second of all, sometimes a big loss can remind us of what’s really important, which can spur on some hefty decisions. My advice is to always check in with a trusted friend or two about the decisions you want to make just in case you’re coming from an irrational place. If your friends who know you well think your decision is a sound one, then go for it. All of this to say if you think you need to leave a toxic job situation, then you might really need to do it. And the last part of your question, the part about not wanting to be around friends and family, that’s really normal to there were lots of people I couldn’t handle interacting with when I was grieving. It’s normal to want to withdraw, but you’re wounded right now. And exposing yourself to people who are potentially making you feel worse, is certainly not appealing. What I’ve observed is that this withdrawing doesn’t always last forever. Give yourself some time to heal and get on your feet both physically and emotionally. And then you can assess if you’re ready to start opening up again to friends and family. I definitely recommend finding a grief support community if that sounds appealing to you. Sometimes when we’re grieving, it can feel better to be around a bunch of strangers who are going through the same thing than it is to be around friends and family who don’t necessarily get how you feel or sympathetic to your struggles. Whichever way you go. Good luck, Vanessa, I will be thinking about you.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  08:46

Thanks for listening today. As today’s question from Vanessa reminds us, our world needs more grief support than ever. If you’ve ever considered working in the field of grief and loss, I’d love for you to consider joining me for my upcoming grief certification training course. This program is designed to help deepen your understanding of grief and end of life work. And it’s open to students, counselors, therapists, nurses, even yoga and art teachers. Anyone working in professional setting, use code NewDay15 for 15% off registration, and visit my website To learn more. And come back here on Friday, from my conversation with fellow therapists and author Laurie Gottlieb. We kind of pull back the curtain on therapy and it’s a really fun and enlightening conversation. That episode will be in your feed first thing Friday morning if you subscribe to NEW DAY, which I encourage you to do right now.

CREDITS  09:41

NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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