Praying for one’s enemies is not the same as forgiveness, but it does lower levels of stress and anxiety about one’s situation. Lowered anxiety is often the precursor to taking the last step and finally offering forgiveness.
Write a letter to your enemy, saying everything you would say if they were in your presence. DON’T SEND IT! The process involved in letter writing is similar to a technique some therapists used called “the empty chair.” The reason this is helpful is due to the fact that most of us compartmentalize our hurtful memories, hoping that “time will heal all wounds.” Research is clear that time does not heal wound at all! What happens is that we develop a “new normal;” one where we make peace with feeling sad, bitter and angry. Writing (aka narrative therapy) forces us to deal intentionally with the pain, instead of ignoring it. TIP: When writing, look for a hidden “truth that will set you free.”
Research suggests that meditating about a hurtful situation can be helpful, for probably the same reasons that writing or praying about it helps. Trying to ignore the painful memory is not a good strategy.
Again, a technique that some find helpful is guided imagery, which involves exposing our memories to the hurtful experience. Some therapists refer to this technique as “exposure therapy.” The reasoning behind the technique involves our human tendency to avoid pain. Guided imagery allows you to bring your painful memory to the forefront of your mind, within the safety of your “quiet space.” TIP: Expect this to be uncomfortable at first. Initially, it is hard “to go back there.” As you repeat the process, you will likely find that it becomes easier and less painful. The less pain you feel, but more likely you will find that capacity to forgive. P.S.: The Army uses a similar method to help veterans cope with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).
Backsliding from a commitment to forgive is common. Making your personal decision to forgive “public” serves as a buffer against lapsing into the negative feeling you are trying to avoid.