When a drunk driver took his wife, his son, his daughter and his unborn child, he decided to do the hardest thing of all, forgive. Could you let go? Would you?
We've all been there. Somebody does something, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that hurts us. Our body's natural response is to put up defense mechanisms to keep from being hurt again, with one of those mechanisms being anger.
Holding a grudge toward those who have hurt us is often a way of justifying why we are hurt. And many times we feel that if we let go of that anger or grudge we are taking away the reason for that hurt. In reality, holding on to those feelings is causing more hurt for not only you, but also the person who hurt you.
As difficult as it is to forgive those who have hurt us — especially when, perhaps, he or she doesn't deserve to be forgiven — doing so will enable you to more easily cope with the hurt.
Here are 10 tips for forgiving someone who doesn't deserve to be forgiven:
1. Make the decision early on to forgive
The most difficult time to decide whether or not to forgive is after you have been hurt. Make the decision to always forgive so that when you are hurt, there is no question of what you will do.
In February 2007, father of four Chris Williams was driving his with his family when a 17-year-old who was driving under the influence struck the Williams' car, killing Chris Williams' wife, their unborn child, and two of his children.
As he sat in the wreckage, knowing full well that he had lost members of his family, Williams made the decision to forgive — a decision that changed the course of life for both him and the 17-year-old driver.
2. Replace the hurt with love
The Bible tells us to love our enemies, to bless them, do good to them, and pray for them (Matthew 5:44).
By trying to more fully understand those who have hurt us and by gaining love and compassion toward him or her, we will be able to replace hurt with love — something that we could all use a little bit more of.
Holding on to anger and hurt is in reality an act of control — one that is really difficult to let go of.
In an interview given to his local newspaper, Williams said, "I really have to let people look in and see that there was an enabling power that allowed me to do that which I couldn't do for myself, and so it really wasn't about how do I get the power to do this, it was about how do I allow a much greater power than me to help move me forward. And that's an act of faith, and that's an act of trust, and I think that's really the core of what people are struggling with, is they don't want to give up on the control."
Every trial has a lesson, and finding it may be the key to moving on. Whether it is learning to be more kind; having more patience, compassion toward others; or if the lesson is that of forgiveness, there is always a lesson to be learned.
5. Have a grateful heart
When tragedy strikes, it can often seem like your whole world is crashing down. However, if you take the time to count your blessings and be grateful for what you do have, you will be able to have a more positive outlook on life and make it through your trial.
6. Don't let the hurt define you
When Williams lost his wife and two of his children, it was most likely the most life-changing event that happened or will ever happen in his lifetime.
Rather than letting the hurt define him, he took the events of that night to become a better person.
7. Keep anger out of it
When you feel your defenses start to go up and anger start to creep in, take a minute to process your feelings, then move the anger out of the equation; anger will only intensify the hurt.
As the Mayo Clinic points out, "If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice."
8. Don't forget
When people think of forgiveness, the phrase "forgive and forget" is often quoted.
Remembering what happened is not what prevents you from forgiving; it is the feelings associated with what happened that makes forgiveness difficult.
Don't forget what happened; instead, use it as a tool to help you and others learn.
Forgiveness is an ongoing process, and even when the decision is made to forgive, sadness and anger have a way of showing up at unexpected times.
By praying often, both for the ability to forgive as well as for the person who hurt you, you will find strength to forgive.
According to an article published on Oprah.com by author Karen Salmansohn, "Whenever angry feelings about a person who's harmed you enter your mind, tell yourself: 'We are all good, loving souls who occasionally get lost.' Pray for this person to find their way back to a happier place."
Often the best way to forgive another is to turn your hurt into something that will help others.
Shortly after the crash, Williams gave a press conference where he spoke about his decision to forgive, also giving a call to action to others, asking them to "extend a single act of kindness, a token of mercy or an expression of forgiveness … by Valentine's Day." He then encouraged people to write about the experience and send it to his two surviving sons.
According to an article written in the Deseret News, "Williams received hundreds of letters and emails about services rendered, from sending cookies to a neighbor to vowing a renewed commitment to forgive an offense from a spouse."
_Williams' story is now a major motion picture, "Just Let Go", now available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray.__
Producers are calling the event "A Night of Forgiveness" and hope that Williams' story will teach others to forgive, even those who, by all accounts, don't deserve to be forgiven.