How do I forgive someone who hurt me or a loved one?

Have you ever wondered “how do I forgive someone” for hurting me or someone I love?

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, condoning or excusing whatever happened. It’s acknowledging hurt and then letting it go, along with the burden of anger and resentment. But this is not always an easy task. We continue to ask ourselves, “How do I forgive someone” who has hurt me or a loved one?

There’s no single approach to learning how to forgive. Talking with a friend, therapist or adviser (spiritual or otherwise) may be helpful during the process, to sort through feelings and stay on track. Take a minute to read this very inspiring story about a woman who forgave the man who killed her son. Reading her story might help you find an answer to the question so many of us are looking for- “How do I forgive someone” who hurt me or a loved one?

Forgiving her Son’s Killer: “Not an easy Thing” (by NPR Staff)

How do I forgive someone who has hurt me or a loved one?

StoryCorps-Mary Johnson, 59, spoke with Oshea Israel, 34, at StoryCorps in Minneapolis


May 20, 2011

It would be easy — expected, even — for Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel to be enemies. After all, he killed Johnson’s only son, in 1993. He went to prison for that — and toward the end of his sentence, he and Johnson made peace.

As a teenager in Minneapolis, Israel was involved with gangs and drugs. One night at a party, he got into a fight with Laramiun Byrd, 20, and shot and killed him. Oshea is now 34; he finished serving his prison sentence for murder about a year and a half ago.

Israel recently visited StoryCorps with Johnson, to discuss their relationship — and the forgiveness it is built upon. As Johnson recalls, their first face-to-face conversation took place at Stillwater Prison, when Israel agreed to her repeated requests to see him.

“I wanted to know if you were in the same mindset of what I remembered from court, where I wanted to go over and hurt you,” Johnson tells Israel. “But you were not that 16-year-old. You were a grown man. I shared with you about my son.”

“And he became human to me,” Israel says.

At the end of their meeting at the prison, Johnson was overcome by emotion.

“The initial thing to do was just try and hold you up as best I can,” Israel says, “just hug you like I would my own mother.”

Johnson says, “After you left the room, I began to say, ‘I just hugged the man that murdered my son.’

“And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you — I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.”

Johnson founded From Death to Life: Two Mothers Coming Together for Healing, a support group for mothers who have lost their children to violence.

And for Israel, Johnson’s forgiveness has brought both changes and challenges to his life.

Mary Johnson holds a two-sided locket she wears on a necklace. On one side are photos of herself and her son; the other has a picture of Oshea Israel.

How do I forgive someone who has hurt me or a loved one?

“Sometimes I still don’t know how to take it,” he says, “because I haven’t totally forgiven myself yet. It’s something that I’m learning from you. I won’t say that I have learned yet, because it’s still a process that I’m going through.”

“I treat you as I would treat my son,” Johnson says. “And our relationship is beyond belief.”

In fact, the two live right next door to one another in Minneapolis.

“So you can see what I’m doing — you know firsthand,” Israel says.

And if he falls out of touch, Israel is sure to hear about it from Johnson — who calls out to him, he says, “‘Boy, how come you ain’t called over here to check on me in a couple of days? You ain’t even asked me if I need my garbage to go out!’ ”

“Uh-huh,” Johnson says with a laugh.

“I find those things funny, because it’s a relationship with a mother for real,” Israel says.

“Well, my natural son is no longer here. I didn’t see him graduate. Now you’re going to college. I’ll have the opportunity to see you graduate,” Johnson says. “I didn’t see him getting married. Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to experience that with you.”

Hearing her say those things, Israel says, gives him a reason to reach his goals.

“It motivates me to make sure that I stay on the right path,” he says. “You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it, despite how much pain I caused you — it’s amazing.”

But Israel is not the only one who’s impressed.

“I know it’s not an easy thing, you know, to be able to share our story together,” Johnson says. “Even with us sitting here looking at each other right now, I know it’s not an easy thing. So I admire that you can do this.”

“I love you, lady.”

“I love you too, son.”

Article source:Forgiving Her Son’s Killer: ‘Not An Easy Thing’ (by NPR Staff, May 20, 2011)

Cathy’s comments:

I have alot of compassion for this woman and all that she has gone through. What an amazing human being to be able to forgive her son’s killer.

I would love to hear your answers to this question: “How do I forgive someone who hurt me or a loved one?”


  • Kirk

    Reply Reply June 2, 2013

    This is a very powerful story. This woman will live a lot longer going through the rest of her life not angry. I don’t think I have this level of forgiveness in me though. But this woman should be admired for her ability to love, forgive, and move on with her life.

  • Katina

    Reply Reply June 2, 2013

    I found a lot of comfort in reading the story. I am trying to forgive the person that murdered my cousin but it is hard. After, reading the story I am going to try real hard to forgive because since my cousins death I don’t like who I have become. I am so bitter and angry. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Deb

    Reply Reply June 2, 2013

    I have so much hatred in my heart for my ex-husband. He beat me severely once and when I filed for divorce he did all he could to try to ruin my life. I have so much hatred in my heart for him and it’s affecting me. I want to forgive and let go so I can have peace, but I’m having a hard time forgiving. I want God to forgive me for my sins and I know that I must be forgiving of others but I’m really having a hard time. I dream about the things he’s done to me and how much he hurt me.

  • Marilyn

    Reply Reply June 2, 2013

    I don’t know this woman personally but is it possible her grief is such that the only way she can survive this is delude herself about the person who killed her son? It’s one thing to forgive and another to want to “mother” him as if to replace the son she lost.
    My neighbor is a thief who stole money from my elderly mother of at least 5,000 then took her out didn’t strap her wheelchair down in the back of the van I bought for her and together with my helpless mom and this woman slamming on her brakes my mom went forward breaking both her legs, hand and toe. Not to mention her heart is now damaged and she was never expected to live. Sometimes I don’t think she would have if they hadn’t put a feed tube in her. I can still see my 92 year old mother with alzheimer’s and cancer looking up at me with pleading eyes her hands shaking and no one knew she had any broken bones. She was black and blue and purple and I was in shock and she was from the pain. It took two days for an aide to think there was something wrong. She will never walk, has gone downhill mentally and was bleeding a lot from who knows what.
    Do you think my neighbor who I hired to help me with my mother for 2 1/2 years did after she laughed and made fun of me. She deny’s now she didn’t have her strapped in properly but I will always remember when she first called me and told me she heard the straps fall off because the red one in the front wasn’t on right. She’s a nurse but now I see her for what she really is. She could care less about my mother but was taking money and had me believing I had misplaced it or lost it.
    I love my mom and she has been through so much in life but I went to court to get custody of her so I could give her a quality of life that she wasn’t getting. She loved to go out and see things, loved shopping. She’s the sweetest person and a joy. I had so many plans for Christmas and was happy because her tumor hadn’t grown in 6 months but I changed her diet and kept her as healthy as I could. We were robbed of the last 4 months. I don’t know how my mother survived and the fact this woman and her daughter have no remorse and have harassed me as much as she can, no I will never forgive her. I despise her. She didn’t make a mistake, she only cares about herself and shouldn’t be a nurse. No one cares about my mom because she’s already to old they say so this woman gets away with everything and I watch my mom suffering everyday instead of putting her the van and enjoying our life

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