How to Practice Forgiveness and Still Have Zero-Contact

TikTokers like @iamlilstitious, @ren.aissancewoman, and @thejeffreymarsh have shared their journeys going #nocontact with toxic family members, bringing much needed visibility to just how difficult it is to come to the conclusion that cutting ties is the only healthy way forward. There are a million reasons why you may never want to talk to someone again, from outright abuse to simply having different values. Sometimes going zero-contact is necessary for your physical safety or your emotional well-being, even if the other person used to be your best friend, was your partner, or is a member of your family. Usually, by the time a person chooses to go zero-contact, they’ve tried every other way possible to reconcile with this person and maintain a relationship, but they’ve simply been too hurt to continue being in touch.

How to Forgive and Still Set Boundaries

Reasons to Go Zero-Contact

Why would you go so far as to cut someone off completely? And who is it that people might cut contact with? Mental health professionals and members of law enforcement might recommend going zero-contact with toxic family members, ex partners, or even destructive friends, especially when abuse and safety are involved. Other toxic traits that may lead you to cut someone off might be narcissistic tendencies like gaslighting, neglecting your relationship or being inconsistent in supporting you, taking way more from you than they give in return, and refusing to address destructive or inappropriate behaviors.

You might want to talk to a counselor about going zero-contact with someone if:

  • You’ve attempted to have conversations about the problems in your relationship and to establish boundaries, but there is no attempt to respect your needs.
  • You’ve asked this person to seek treatment for their issues, but they refuse.
  • You’ve experienced repeated verbal or emotional abuse, but they refuse to acknowledge their role in the abuse or in enabling the abuser.
  • You’ve felt abandoned or neglected, and spending time with the person leaves you feeling emotionally depleted.
  • You feel unsafe allowing this person to have your contact info or home address.
  • You’re unable to live your life peacefully as long as you remain in touch with this person because they refuse to respect your boundaries.
  • There is nothing positive to gain from staying in a relationship, even if it means losing other important relationships.

Are You Ready to Forgive?

When you're so hurt by someone that you choose to remove them from your life completely, it may take quite a long time before you feel ready to forgive them. And that’s okay! The first step after going zero-contact should be taking care of your mental health. When you cut someone off who’s played a huge role in your life, it’s normal to feel grief over the loss of the relationship or the loss of the future you thought you’d have with them, anger about their behavior or about what they took from you, pain from the emotional damage they caused, or even hatred of the person for hurting you deeply.

How, then, could you ever feel like forgiving someone you hate or who’s hurt you repeatedly? If you’ve worked with a mental health professional or, perhaps, a support group to process going zero-contact and the trauma you experienced that led to that point, you may eventually find that your lingering feelings of anger or hatred have begun to disrupt your new life. That means, even without any contact, this person still has a hold on you, despite the hard work you’ve done to get healthy. If you’re otherwise happy and healthy, but the anger or pain sometimes circles back around to get in the way of your new life, it may be time to consider forgiveness so that you can let go and eliminate that last little bit of power this person has over you.

But what if they don’t deserve forgiveness? Well… they probably don’t! To lose all chance of a relationship with you, they did something terrible. No doubt! But are you willing to be eaten alive by your pain and anger, thus sacrificing the new life you’ve worked so hard to build? This act of forgiveness is for you, not for them. You don’t have to tell them you forgive them, and you don’t even have to “forgive and forget.” In fact, it’s important to forgive and remember because you’ve learned valuable boundaries from this experience that you can use forever and even share with others.

How to Forgive Someone Without Contact

While it would be nice to imagine that someday this person might amend their ways and come to you for forgiveness, the harsh reality of going zero-contact is that you’ve likely already learned that the person isn’t going to change. Getting back in touch with them to inform them of your intent to forgive them would likely open that toxic door all over again, so if you’re ready to forgive, you simply don’t tell them. If you need to find a way to make the forgiveness feel real without telling them, you could try:

  • Writing a letter to them that you don’t intend to send, expressing the number of ways they hurt you, how you’ve moved on with your life, and how you’re letting go of the past. 
  • Telling a trusted friend who knows your story that you’ve forgiven the person and having a conversation with them about why.
  • Asking a counselor to roleplay a conversation with you in which the counselor plays the person who hurt you and you tell them they’re forgiven.
  • Performing a kind of “forgiveness ceremony” in which you take items that remind you of the person or of past hurts and throw them away, burn them, or bury them to signify that you have let go.
  • Praying aloud and asking God to forgive the person as well so that you can let go and be at peace with the idea that the future is bright and new, regardless of what happened in the past.

Moving Forward Without Them

Remember that forgiveness is often a practice, rather than a one-time thing. Just because one day you might feel like forgiving them, the next day, you might feel grief and anger. When that happens, you may have to take a moment to remind yourself that you’ve let go of the past and wish to move on with your new life in peace.

The idea of forgiveness comes back to the idea of peace, every time. God Himself forgives us when we don’t deserve it so that He can be at peace with those He loves instead of being at odds with us. When you are forgiven through Christ, you are free to move into your future in love and hope, regardless of your past mistakes. If you want to talk more about His forgiveness, forgiving someone who hurt you, or about going zero-contact with someone in your life, talk to your therapist, counselor, or one of our Hope Coaches today!

Forgiving someone who hurt you could be the greatest challenge in your life, but also the most freeing and healing. Here are 6 steps on how to forgive.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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