Forgiveness is an opportunity to grow.

How to Forgive a Friend's Betrayal

by Elise Wile

The great statesman Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." It is not easy to forgive. In fact, it may be a task that takes months or even years. Committing yourself to an act of forgiveness, however, is a key that will release you from a prison of contempt. When you forgive your friend, you free yourself.

1. Live and Learn

Choose to look at the betrayal as a learning opportunity rather than a soul-crushing event from which you may never recover. When you think about it, if you never had challenges to overcome in life, you'd never have the opportunity to develop wisdom. After all, people who have had carefree lives are hardly the people you'd seek out for advice. When you can view what happened as a gift of sorts, albeit one that was unasked for, you'll find it easier to forgive.

2. Consider Perspective

While there is no excuse for betraying someone, your friend may not have been strong enough to deal with the situation on his own. For example, if you shared with him the disturbing news that your last mammogram had questionable results, it's possible that his anxiety over your health led him to tell a mutual friend. While this is not always the case, it is something to consider, as what may seem like an unforgivable betrayal may be nothing more than a moment of human weakness. Also consider that what is upsetting you are your thoughts and feelings about what happened, rather than the event itself, says psychologist Frederic Luskin, Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects. When you forgive, those hurt feelings will be healed.

3. Live Life Well

Shift your focus from thinking about your friend's betrayal to living your life to the fullest. Instead of giving the hurt your friend caused you power, focus on the kindness and love you encounter in life, advises psychologist Elisha Goldstein in an April 2012 "Huffington Post" article. If you can no longer trust your friend with confidences, meet that need another way by developing new relationships, beginning a journal, or expressing your emotions through art or music. Learning new ways to get what you need is better than mentally replaying the betrayal, says Goldstein.

4. Don't Forget

While you won't want to dwell on your friend's betrayal, you don't need to completely forget about what happened, either. When something painful happens in life, it is an opportunity to learn and grow. What you have learned from your friend's tendency to blab your secrets, for example, is that you shouldn't confide in her the next time you have an argument with your husband or decide to look for a new job without notifying your boss. While she may still be the perfect friend to call when a new romantic comedy comes out and you want to head to the movie theater, keep your friendship on a level that won't give her the opportunity to hurt you in a similar way again. Reconciliation doesn't have to be a part of forgiveness at all, says Luskin. The important task before you is finding peace.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images