In yesterday’s blog I discussed some ways of putting down the emotional baggage left over from the recent Thanksgiving holiday. One of the most important steps in this process is forgiveness, but I find that it’s also one of the hardest and most misunderstood steps in the healing process. Therefore, today I’d like to spend some time discussing forgiveness; what it is, why you should do it and what’s in it for you.
One of the first things I think you need to understand is that when you practice forgiveness, you aren’t necessarily doing it for the other person, but for yourself. If you choose to hang on to the hurt and resentment, it’s not the other person you’re hurting, but yourself. Hanging on to the emotional baggage not only weighs you down, but allows the other person to continue to have a form of control over you and every time your replay the hurtful incident(s) in your head, you are allowing them to hurt you all over again; you continue to pay the cost, not them.
So, what are we really talking about when we discuss forgiveness? Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Look at that line again. When you practice forgiveness, you are making the conscious choice to free yourself from the negative emotions associated with the situation and it may have little or no impact on the other person(s). In fact forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings an emotional freedom and peace that helps you get on with your life
In a recent post, the folks at the Mayo Clinic offered some excellent insights into forgiveness that I’d like to share with you now:
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you’re unforgiving, you might:
- Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
- Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
- Become depressed or anxious
- Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
- Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Higher self-esteem
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:
- Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
- Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
- Actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you, when you’re ready
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
Here’s hoping you have an intentionally great and peaceful day.