What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the cognitive decision to let go of resentment and release any thought of revenge. It does not mean that we forget the act that must be forgiven. That may not ever happen and is not required to forgive. The hurt may always be part of your life, but it does not have to keep the emotional pull that builds distress. Forgiveness focuses on releasing the grip it has on you. It allows you to make room for more positive things, and can even allow you to understand why the person acted in the way that hurt you initially. This allows relationships to be repaired and for you to begin the emotional healing needed to continue to forgive and move forward in your life. It lifts the weight that the grudge can place on you. It repairs the emotional and physical tolls that this pain causes. In forgiving, you do not minimize the act, deny the damage, or permit them to do it again. It is possible to maintain that the hurtful act is not acceptable nor will you allow it to happen again, and yet to move forward. Forgiveness should focus on you achieving your own inner peace and not on the other person. That is perhaps the most important part of what forgiveness is. It is not about the person being forgiven, but about allowing the person who needs to forgive to heal.
What most people miss about forgiveness, is that it benefits the one doing the forgiving more than the person that is being forgiven. Holding a grudge causes emotional damage to the person holding it, more so than the original insult or injury. It builds hate and sadness, damages relationships, and can break trust in relationships even outside of the conflict. Forgiveness does not mean that a relationship will be repaired or even maintained. It is less about fixing the relationship and more about moving forward for your own well being.
The dangers of not forgiving?
- Builds anger, distrust, and distance into every relationship
- Builds fear of new experiences, new people, or intimacy
- Focusing only on the hurt of the past and not allowing you to engage in the present or plan for the future
- Depression or anxiety
- Lowered self-esteem
- Negative feelings towards yourself, self-hate
- Losing close and enriching connections with others
- Fearing forgiveness will allow you to be hurt again
What are the benefits of forgiving?
- Improved and healthier relationships
- Greater emotional well being
- Less anxiety, depression, stress, and anger
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved immune system
- Less stress on your heart, improved health
- Higher self-esteem
How do you start to forgive?
- Weight the benefits or the value of forgiveness against the effects of holding a grudge
- Focus on the facts of the situation without your emotional reaction
- Consider your reaction, why you reacted that way, was it appropriate or equal to the situation
- Determine how this combination has affected your life, health, relationships, and well-being
- Make the conscious choice to forgive the person who has caused injury
- Don’t become a victim, strengthen yourself in order to reduce the power of others to hurt you
- Remember that there is no set time line for forgiveness, allow yourself the time you need, and start when you are ready
- The more progress you make towards forgiveness the less pain will define you
- Be compassionate, even when others are not