Forgive and Set Healthy Boundaries: 4 Steps to Letting Go of Resentment

A couple contemplating forgiveness

“Forgiveness allows us to let go of the pain in the memory and if we let go of the pain in the memory, we can have the memory, but it does not control us. When memory controls us we are then the puppets of the past.” – Alexandra Asseily

This is a great quote, as it speaks to the process of forgiveness. To forgive doesn’t mean you forget what happened, it just means you are purposefully letting go of the pain and anger and learning from the experience. I believe that “betrayal” is one of the most difficult emotions to address; and usually, resentment comes from a moment of betrayal. At the core of betrayal is broken trust. When trust is broken, relationships are severed.

It doesn’t matter if it stems from a fight between spouses, family members or friends: forgiving someone who has damaged your trust is handled all the same.

Using Resentment as a Shield

Resentment is often used as a shield to help us cope with being wronged. But before we cross that bridge, it’s important to know why we hold on to grudges and resentment. Here are a few common reasons:

Protection: Sometimes we have an unconscious belief that holding onto resentment from a problem will protect us from ever being taken advantage of in the future. But it’s actually counterproductive and prevents us from learning from experiences.

Revenge: People sometimes feel that if they let go of the anger or resentment too quickly, the other person is getting off too easily. But holding on to a grudge allows someone else’s behavior and actions to affect your happiness and peace.

Fear: We fear that if we let go of what hurt us, it will only happen again. And if we forgive the person that hurt us, they will only do it again.

The Need for Closure: A lot of times it’s hard for people to let go of events or situations because there’s no resolution to it. They may feel like they need an apology or answers in order to move on.

Letting Go of Your Resentment

Even though most of us never deliberately wish harm or bad fortune on another person, it’s sometimes difficult to loosen the grip we have on our negative thoughts. Negative energies, even just being in a bad mood, tend to exhibit through our body language and tone of voice. This just goes to show that holding grudges isn’t just toxic for the mind, but to those around you as well.

Here are a few tips on how to let go of resentment:

1. Acknowledge What Took Place

Acknowledge your hurt feelings and the situation itself. Bringing the issues to light is very important if you want to truly let the situation go. Trying to “brush it under the rug” will only hurt you and prevent you from processing your emotions.

2. Step Into His or Her Shoes

Looking at the situation from the other person’s point of view may help you understand. It’s important to view the situation from their perspective to see what their intentions were and to try to understand where they are coming from. Sometimes people who have experienced pain and trauma will exhibit hurtful characteristics, and really it has nothing to do with you or your friendship. This is when I will set specific boundaries with a person who is not aware of the pain they cause.

3. Choose to Commit to Forgiveness

Forgiveness doesn’t really have to do with the other person as much as it has to do with you. Forgiving the other person means you are just letting the past be the past and not carrying the ill feelings with you. It does not mean that you will allow what happened to repeat itself, it just means you are willing to let it go for yourself. During this process say it aloud, either to yourself or to whoever involved. Verbalizing it makes it an action and will make it “real” in your brain.

4. Move On

Once you have forgiven the person, don’t dwell on it. Don’t go back and think of “what-if” situations. Just allow the situation to be what it is and move forward. You can’t change a situation by living in the past; focus your energy on building your future.

Let Go and Reap the Benefits

Remember, you can experience great benefits by letting go of resentment. These benefits include:

  • healthier relationships
  • stronger emotional wellbeing
  • minimized anxiety and depression
  • lower blood pressure
  • lower risk of addictive behaviors

What would it be like to live in a world where we wished well upon everyone, even those who have done wrong to us? While some see it as perhaps science fiction, others see it as a movement that begins, and perpetuates, with each and every one of us. I  am inclined to firmly believe in the latter, as a world filled with love and compassion seems like a much more appealing place to live than one run by vengeance and greed. So let go of the vengeful malicious intent, abandon the negative thoughts and adopt a much healthier lifestyle and mindset. If not for any other reason, do it for yourself.

About the Author

Author, Counselor, and Talk Show Host Jada Jackson is known for her transparent, practical style of communicating and training. Her ultimate goal is to guide her clients into a meaningful and purposeful living, particularly in the areas of personal and professional development, emotion management, and behavioral modification. Jada is the President of Total Life Counseling Center – Dallas. She is a graduate of Regent University and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Professional Communication and a Master of Arts Degree in Human Services Counseling. Jada also has a Master of Science Degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Mental Health from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a doctorate degree from Argosy University in Counselor Education and Supervision. Jada is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas.
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