The Powerful Benefits of Forgiveness
There is a very old saying that says, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” This is a warning to people to not act out in anger or resentment because you only end up harming yourself. Over time, these feelings of resentment can build until the individual develops feelings of depression or anxiety.
While forgiving others who have hurt us isn’t always easy, in the end, it greatly benefits our mental health and overall well-being. To be clear, forgiving others does NOT mean you agree with or condone their poor behavior. And it doesn’t mean you are announcing that your feelings don’t matter. Forgiveness simply means letting go of the negative feelings that are holding you down and causing you prolonged distress.
Again, forgiving someone who has hurt you isn’t easy, but it will lead you to a sense of peace and joy. Here are some steps you can take to forgive others:
Process Your Pain
Have you really faced your pain and processed it? You’ll need to do this before you can let those feelings go. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings deeply and fully. Cry, yell, hit your pillow, do whatever it takes. Ignoring your feelings will not help. Letting yourself feel them and express them in healthy ways is how you start this process.
It takes two to tango, as they say. While we can easily point to others and blame them for the breakup or ugly incident, the truth is, we were there also. We played some role. Even if it was to retaliate in the moment and to show our own ugliness. It’s time to forgive your own humanity and any wrongdoing to yourself or others.
Make A Choice
If you have processed your feelings about the hurt, the other person and yourself, the next step is to simply make a choice (don’t wait for a feeling) to forgive the person. This means a choice to not hold it against them anymore, to not bring it up in anger and to not tell other people about it in anger. It’s a choice to free yourself from the pain in the past and to let yourself heal. This doesn’t mean it cannot be talked about anymore, just not in anger.
One last thought, forgiveness helps you heal and is completely different than reconciliation. Reconciliation is where you would both do the work to heal the relationship. This part takes two people participating in it, it takes lots of understanding and empathy and it takes time. Reconciliation is a lot of work. If this relationship is worth keeping, hopefully it’s also worth doing the work of reconciliation. If you decide you don’t want to keep a relationship with whomever hurt you, hopefully you will still decide to forgive because that’s how you heal.