“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” – Steve Maraboli
We’ve all been hurt by the words or actions of others but the wounds left by hurt can lead to feelings of anger, bitterness and even vengeance. When we are hurt by someone we love and trust we put up walls and allow bitterness and our sense of injustice to foster negative feelings and actions. Our American culture emphasizes holding a grudge, paying back the ill begotten, and keeping score. If we don’t learn how to forgive we can become emotionally and physically ill.
There is a growing body of research on forgiveness that when we can forgive we are happier, more empathetic, and hopeful. Those who make it a habit to forgive are more likely than the general population to have:
- Fewer episodes of depression
- Higher self-esteem
- More friends
- Longer marriages
- Lower blood pressure
- Closer relationships
- Fewer stress-related health issues
- Lower rates of heart disease
I want these health benefits…don’t you?
Forgiveness is a decision to let go of your resentment, bitterness and anger. It eases the grip on how you emotionally relate to the hurt that you feel; it will help you to focus on the positives in life. Forgiveness doesn’t justify the hurt or remove the other person’s wrong doing, it allows you to come to terms with it and get on with your life.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Forgiveness is a process of change. Start the process by reflecting on the facts, not the emotional effect, of the situation that caused the hurt. If you have multiple areas where you’ve been hurt, review each one separately. Ask yourself, what part did I play in the situation? How has it affected my life, my physical and emotional well-being?
Use the value of forgiveness and the importance it has on your ability to move forward with creating a positive and passionate life and to move away from the role of victim. Release the control and the power of the offending party or situation. As you let go of resentment, you’ll no longer define your life by those who have hurt you.
To have the offender change their actions or words isn’t the purpose of forgiveness. Forgiveness is about changing your life, bringing you peace, happiness and healing. It is about removing the power that offenders have. Forgiveness is a process more than it is a destination. Acknowledge that terrible things happen in life but commit yourself to making a difference and changing yourself.
“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” – C.R. Strahan
This process isn’t just about forgiving others; it’s about forgiving yourself. Take some time to assess and acknowledge the wrong’s you’ve done and how they have affected others. But do not judge yourself too harshly – you are only human; you have and will continue to make mistakes. If you are truly sorry for what you’ve said or done to others in the past admit that you’ve caused harm and let those who you’ve offended know that you are sorry. Remove the excuses, speak the truth and ask for forgiveness. We cannot force someone to forgive us, but we can commit to treating others with compassion, dignity, and respect.
Forgiveness is not an easy process but it is one that can literally save your life.