On Yom Kippur, we ask G‑d to forgive us for our sins. But He offers His forgiveness only for those sins we committed against Him. For sins we committed against our fellow man, Yom Kippur will not atone unless we personally ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged. So we’ve made it a ritual before Yom Kippur to make the rounds of our friends and make amends for any wrongs we may have committed during the year. In safe, healthy relationships, it’s relatively easy for us to forgive others and for them to forgive us.

But some people never ask for our forgiveness. Some people never ask for our forgivenessThey don’t show remorse, they don’t seem to care that they’ve hurt us, and they may even demean or belittle us for having been hurt. Why should we forgive them?

For our own sake. Holding on to past hurts and grudges is a heavy burden to carry. The longer we hold on to the grudge, the more power we give to our past tormentors. We owe it to ourselves to move on in life and establish an identity apart from them. Forgiveness is the best way to remove their ability to hurt us.

Forgiveness is a process of introspection and self-refinement, similar to the process of teshuvah (“repentance”) itself, and doesn’t require the involvement of those who hurt us. If they make the first move and ask for our forgiveness, all the better. But a state of forgiveness is something we achieve within ourselves, even if the other person will never reciprocate.

Here are some steps you can take to overcome hurt and reach a state of true forgiveness:

1. Validate the Hurt

Have you ever tried to convince yourself “That didn’t bother me” or “I don’t care” in response to an insult? Did it work? Denying emotional pain is rarely an effective method of handling it. When you are hurt by someone’s words or actions, it’s important to acknowledge the pain and allow yourself to feel it. Let the emotion come without trying to direct or control it. Don’t belittle yourself for feeling pain. Don’t tell yourself “That’s silly” or “I can’t believe I’m feeling this way.” Eventually, you will come to a point where you’re ready to put the matter into proper perspective. But while the feelings are raging, don’t try to intellectualize.

At the same time, don’t work up the feelings unnecessarily by reminding yourself of all the past wrongs this person has committed, or how this person “always” puts you down or “never” includes you. Just be in the moment until the emotion dissipates. Then you will be ready to rationally examine the event.

2. Analyze the Feeling

When you’re in the throes of a negative emotion, your mind is not receptive to logical thought. That’s why our sages advise: “Do not appease your friend while he is angry, and do not comfort him while his dead lies before him.”1 Later, though, there is room to coolly analyze what happened and why it upset you so much.

Very often, when you are upset by someone’s comment or action, it’s not what they said or did that bothers you, but the meaning that you infer from it.

“She didn’t come to my party. I’m not important to her.”

“He didn’t answer my e‑mail. Why does he ignore me like this?”

It’s painful to feel ignored, slighted, overlooked or excluded. But it’s possible that there is a different explanation for a person’s behavior, one that has nothing to do with you. And even if it does turn out to be true that you are not important to that person, that doesn’t mean you are worthless. Your value doesn’t depend on one person’s assessment.

Sometimes, you are hurt because your expectations for that relationship are not in sync with what that person is willing or able to give. You may need to accept that some relationships will always be one-sided and what you invest will not be reciprocated. Some people may never accept, appreciate or acknowledge you for who you are. That reflects more on their limitations, not on yours. Are you willing and able to accept them as they are? Not every relationship in life will be deep and meaningful; in fact, some will never be more than superficial.

You also need to take stock of how you treat your relatives and friends. If you’re upset with people because they didn’t come through for you, do you always make sure to come through for others? Are there people who’ve felt let down, disappointed or ignored by you? Use the painful event as a stimulus to make needed changes in the way you treat others.

3. Take Responsibility

Forgiveness is rarely a one-way street. When you’ve been hurt, it’s difficult to be objective, but you need to be honest about the ways that you may have contributed to the situation. If someone made a hurtful comment, was it in reaction to something that you said or did? Did you cast the first stone? Usually, when a relationship breaks down, both sides share in the blame. It’s difficult to be the first to admit guilt, especially if you feel that the wrong done to you is out of proportion to what you did. But being first to apologize is not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength, health and growth.

4. Grow From Pain

The next step is to turn the pain into growth. You know what it’s like to be hurt by someone’s insensitivity. So become exquisitely sensitive to the pain of others. Watch your words carefully before you speak. When you’re tempted to tear someone down, remember what it felt like when it was done to you. As Hillel says: “What is hateful to you, do not do unto your friend. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.”

Emotional pain stimulates us to reach deep inside for our reserves of inner strength. We realize that we cannot depend on external validation for our self-esteem. Our only true source of strength and identity is the soul. The more we identify with our soul, the less susceptible we are to petty slights and hurts. We have a sense of value and self-worth that is unshakable.

5. Confront . . . or Retreat

When you are hurt by others, is it better to confront them and let them know how they made you feel, or is it better to retreat from contact for a while to lick your wounds? Or perhaps you should simply carry on as though nothing has happened?

Giving people the silent treatment is rarely an effective tactic. If people don’t know what they did wrong, they don’t have the opportunity to make amends. The Torah teaches: “Do not hate your brother in your heart.”2 When you feel that someone has wronged you, speak up.

You may choose to simply drop the subject if, on reflection, the matter is minor, unintentional and unlikely to recur. Retreat may be a good option when you need more time to work through your feelings and don’t feel ready to approach the person from a place of strength. If you do choose to broach the subject, wait until your anger has passed and you can discuss the matter calmly, without excess emotion. Make sure you explain how much you value the relationship before bringing up the incident that is bothering you.

If you would like to approach the person who hurt you, but are afraid it will devolve into an angry confrontation, it may help to enlist the services of a neutral mediator. Aaron the Kohen was known as someone who “loved peace and pursued peace.” When he’d see two people, A and B, in conflict, he’d go up to A in confidence and say: “B feels so bad about what happened! She really wishes she could make amends.” Then he’d go to B and say the same thing about A, and the reconciliation would naturally follow. If you choose to use a mediator, make sure that your mediator sincerely desires peace between the two parties. Another option is to express your feelings in a letter, keeping your tone as objective and respectful as possible.

However, if a person is habitually abusive or contemptuous towards you, don’t put yourself in a position in which he or she can hurt you again. In that case, your best option may be to end the relationship and take steps to protect yourself.

6. Repay With Good

You have let go of all anger towards the people who hurt you. You have approached them in a friendly way for reconciliation. You have found a positive resolution to a negative situation. Is this where the process of forgiveness ends? According to the Tanya,3 you can still go another step further—to repay bad for good, to shower them with kindness and go out of your way to help them. The exemplar of this behavior is Joseph. Although he was abused by his brothers when they threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery, he forgave them completely. Moreover, he moved his family to Egypt during a famine and sustained them for the rest of his life in a most generous way.

Sounds a bit extreme? Does the person who harmed us “deserve” so much friendliness and consideration in return? When we treat people with love even when they are not deserving, G‑d reciprocates. When we stand before Him in judgment on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we don’t want Him to give us what we deserve. We want Him to judge us with kindness and compassion. We want to be judged by our potential, not by our actions. When we go to an extreme in judging others favorably and repaying hurt with kindness, G‑d will in turn shower His kindness upon us and grant us a good and sweet year filled with blessings.