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How to Forgive a Family Betrayal

by Carola Finch

When a family member betrays you, you may feel heartbroken, angry, grieved, sad and confused. When you come to the point that you are able to accept the betrayal, you can begin the process of forgiving the family member for what they have done. Forgiveness is a conscious choice to let go of resentment, anger and a desire for revenge against the family member who hurt you. When these negative emotions are released, forgiveness can lead you to better physical and emotional health and a restored relationship with the family member who betrayed you, if desired.

Analyze the betrayal and determine if you have some responsibility in the situation. This approach will help you to understand your feelings and identify misperceptions about the family member’s behavior. Acknowledge your faults and mistakes.

Feel compassion for yourself and the person who betrayed you. Compassion towards yourself will help you heal from the trauma of the betrayal by taking your focus away from your mistakes and negative feelings and focus on the more positive aspects of your life.

Hold the family person responsible for the actions that hurt and betrayed you and don’t minimalise or deny the emotional impact of the betrayal. Your decision to forgive does not excuse the family member’s behavior. The family member’s betrayal will always be a part of your life, but the effects will lessen over time.

Motivate yourself to forgive by focusing on your need to heal rather than helping the other person. View forgiveness as a way to release yourself from resentment and emotional pain. Think about the positive benefits of forgiveness like less stress, lower blood pressure, decreased hostility, lower risk of substance abuse and overall psychological wellbeing with less symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Fight a personal resistance to forgive with action, such as writing in a journal, prayer or meditation. Talk to a friend, counselor or impartial family member about the betrayal. Remember the times that you hurt other people and received forgiveness.

Decide whether you can reconcile or interact with the family member who betrayed you. Respect the decision you have made. If the person who betrayed you is not in your immediate family, expect that you may run into the family member on special occasions and family gatherings. You can choose to attend and experience awkwardness and intense emotions or not go.

Look upon the family betrayal is a opportunity to learn new things about yourself and life. Stop thinking of yourself as a victim.

About the Author

Carola Finch began freelancing for newspapers and magazines in 1976. She specializes in writing about people with disabilities, business, Christianity and social issues. Finch studied journalism and communications at Red River Community College.

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