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How to Forgive a Lie

by Elise Wile

Confucius said, "To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it." Even though being lied to is a common experience, it can be extremely difficult to let go of the hurt of a lie and forgive the person who lied to you. If you learn how to forgive, the wrongs committed against you won't torment you and poison your life.

Look at the Benefits

When you choose to forgive, you gain empowerment over the situation rather than continuing to feel victimized. The result is that lasting bitterness and anger disappear, freeing you to spend your emotions on more positive pursuits. Not only will you feel better mentally when you decide to forgive your partner for telling you he was working late when he was actually at the bar having drinks with buddies, but your health may improve as well. A 2013 study conducted at Ohio State University found that forgiveness is not only a beneficial coping strategy, but facilitates better cardiovascular health.

Cultivate Compassion

Think back to the lies you've told over the years. You might have lied to a friend to spare her feelings, told your boss that traffic was heavy when you slept too late or falsely told your brother that you had plans when you refused his invitation to the opera. Realizing that people lie for a variety of reasons, including fear and self-preservation, can help you have compassion for the person who lied to you. Once you are able to put yourself in her shoes, it becomes easier to forgive. Former hostage Terry Waite, in a letter to The Forgiveness Project, wrote, "If one can understand why people behave as they do then often the road to forgiveness is opened."

When Forgiving Is Hard

Sometimes it is very difficult to forgive someone for a lie that he has told, especially if he doesn't apologize. It can be even harder if he says something like, "I wouldn't have lied to you if you'd been more understanding." Nevertheless, forgiving will block the bitterness that Waite calls a "cancer that enters the soul." If you feel stuck, spend some time writing your feelings in a journal, praying or meditating, advises the Mayo Clinic. Talking to someone who is objective -- such as a counselor or friend -- can help you work past the anger that is making it difficult for you to forgive.

What to Say

To forgive, you don't need to communicate that the lie was somehow justified. You can say something like, "I realize you felt nervous about telling me that you wanted to meet your ex-boyfriend for lunch. Lying to me about it, however, makes it difficult for me to trust you. I love you and forgive you, but we need to work on building up trust in our relationship again." Realize that the person might not change her behavior but that forgiveness will enable you to let go of the anger you feel, says the Mayo Clinic.

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.

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