We’ve all been there.

Left heartbroken, betrayed, stifled, afraid, destructed at the hands of someone other than ourselves. It’s that bittersweet part of being alive: bitter when it’s fresh, sweet when it’s finally healed.

When discussing emotional healing, everyone seems to fixate on the home run of forgiveness, like it’s something you can simply decide to do. No one ever talks about what it takes to sincerely forgive or how to get there, leaving a lot of people with the common misconception that forgiveness happens on its own with the passing of time.

“You just need to give it some time… time heals all…”

While this may be the case in some light situations where we simply stop caring about someone and the way they hurt us, that’s not what mindful healing actually is. That’s just us mistaking indifference developed over time for forgiveness.

So let’s forget about forgiveness.

Practice conscious sympathy instead

To show compassion is to purposefully shift your perspective to see someone else’s side of things with the pure intentions of sympathizing with their struggles.

I know some of you reading this may already be thinking of that person who hurt you and how they don’t deserve your compassion. And you may be right, they probably don’t. But this isn’t about them as much as it’s is about you. Showing compassion to those who hurt us is oddly the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves.

I’m not suggesting that you use their history to excuse their actions – one does not pardon the other. I’m suggesting that whenever you’re ready to move on, you start off by recognizing their past and present pains and how they’ve led to your own, instead of trying to conjure up forgiveness that just isn’t ready to exist yet.

How sympathy heals

The hardest part about suffering from emotional pain is the sense of weakness and betrayal that inevitably comes with it. Our tendency to start doubting our own strength is often rooted in the subliminal notion that the ones who hurt us must be completely void of emotion and humanity to do what they did, making us feel like their prey. After all, society tends to attribute emotion to weakness; ruthlessness to strength.

Once our minds establish our own presumed weakness, we start to find reasons why the whole thing was actually our fault: I should have told her to back off, I should have fought harder, I should have known he would hurt me, I should not have been so trusting, I should have, I should have, I should have…

Stop now. Shift gears.

Set your pain aside for a while and open yourself up to reading the person who hurt you like a villain in a story book. We’re all products of genetics and journeys; nature and nurture; sugar, spice and some misery. Everything we are and ever do (good and bad) is the cumulative result of the things we’ve consciously and subconsciously been through. So take in their history, beliefs, intuitions, perceptions, upbringing, intelligence – literally everything that makes them who they are – and use them to make sense of their actions.

Your vision of them will steadily start to transition from the cold-blooded monster you see them as, to the normal human being they actually are. Putting those reality-check goggles on will help you realize that you weren’t weak for happening to be a victim of their actions, that it wasn’t your fault, and that it probably wasn’t even about you. It was about them and their bad decisions, rooted in their own faults and weaknesses. That’s not something to hold against them, just something to be aware of.

This doesn’t mean you have to reach out to them if you don’t want to. Often times we’re hurt by the people closest to us, meaning we usually already know them pretty well. Use everything you know about them that helps make sense of who they are to reach that compassionate point of understanding. This should eventually level the playing field, making you feel less sorry for yourself and more sympathetic towards them, and prepping you for genuinely getting past whatever it is they did.

We can’t move on from the things we don’t understand. Finding the kindness to set your anger and vengeance aside and listen to the one person who hurt you the most is a deliberate act of strength by you.  Give them the benefit of the doubt that they probably didn’t do what they did out of pure evilness, but because of an unfortunate series of events that led them there.

And never feel like you have to forgive. In fact, don’t even think about it. Trust that it will come on it’s own when you’re ready.

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Peri Elmokadem is a freelance content and creative writer, visual artist and traveller. On any given day, she’ll pick caramel over chocolate, oceans over forests, dogs over cats. She’s on a quest to find her happy gene and help others find theirs through her work. She’s starting to share her typos and faulty brushstrokes with the world.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Compassion.

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