The Healing effect of Forgiveness
The art of forgiveness has long been recommended as a form of letting go of hurt feelings, resentment, anger and fear. But is it that simple to forgive people who have wronged us in some way?
You may feel that to forgive someone means you are letting them off or even making light of their actions. You may wonder why you should forgive someone who you don’t believe deserves it. They may have done something so terrible that you want them to be punished and suffer and to let go of those negative feelings you have will mean it was OK for them to treat you badly.
However, holding onto the anger and resentment only hurts you. The other person isn’t going to feel the negative energy you are sending out. But those negative feeling you hold onto can seriously affect your mental and emotional health and physical wellbeing.
True forgiveness can release you from the pain, allowing you to move on. It isn’t saying that what they have done is OK. In fact, you don’t even have to tell the other person you forgive them because it’s about you not them.
Admittedly if it’s a loved one who has hurt you and you’d like to still have a relationship with them then you may like to tell them you forgive them, especially if they have apologised and understand how they hurt you. But even loved ones may not be sorry or believe they have done something wrong. You can still forgive them and decide whether you are prepared to have them in your life.
The Benefits of Forgiveness
MENTAL EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
By releasing our grievances, we become more harmonious on all levels. Our fears are reduced and we gain a more positive outlook on life. We feel calmer, happier and ready to give compassion and love to our world.
Healthier relationships – By no longer holding grudges, we can get a lot closer to friends and family. Old relationships have a chance to change and grow, and new relationships can be formed.
Better anger-management skills – With fewer burdens from the past weighing us down and triggering us, we can have more self-control of our emotions.
Less anxiety, stress and hostility – Holding onto a grudge causes us to think negatively which leads to anxiety, stress and hostility towards others. Forgiveness can help you move past these negative thoughts and feel more compassion and positivity.
Fewer symptoms of depression – Forgiveness allows us to heal and can replace feelings of depression with a sense of purpose and compassion.
Chronic Pain Relief – Physical pain often has a psychological cause. When we allow a profound shift to happen with forgiveness, we heal ourselves on both psychological and physical levels
Lower blood pressure – When we no longer feel anxiety, anger or pain because of past grievances, our heart rate evens out and our blood pressure drops.
Improved heart health – Forgiveness relaxes our hearts because we’ve let go of pain. Our hearts can calm down, and our heart rate decreases as a result.
Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse – Substance abuse is a mask for underlying pain. Forgiveness helps us release that pain and so that we don’t need to find ways to numb it or block it out.
How to Forgive Someone
The first thing you need to do is recognise the need to forgive and how you will benefit from it. You may be fed up with the negative feelings and the effect they are having on you and this would be a good time to reflect on making changes to improve your life.
You may know what you need to forgive because it could a very recent event or something that caused a great deal of trauma that you are unable to stop thinking about it.
However, it could be a number of things from your distant past that is affecting your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing now. In my own healing journey, I started to write a list going back to my first memories in childhood. I found I had quite a long list, there were obvious ones such as living with an abusive partner and a huge betrayal by a friend/employer. But there were also other less traumatic situations, such as rejection of childhood friends, criticism from boyfriends and judgements by loved ones that made me feel defensive and insecure with the need to prove myself.
Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behaviour. Make a decision that you are going to release them.
Now it’s time to forgive. Choose to forgive the person who has offended you. You can do this in a number of ways:
- In person, if the circumstances are right, you might be able to have a discussion with the person about how they made you feel, they may have already apologised or do so after speaking with you, but they may not. Apologise anyway with the intention of not dwelling on the situation further.
- You can just mentally decide you have forgiven them and move on.
- You could write down all your grievances in the form of a letter and then burn the letter, imagining all hurt feelings drifting away with the smoke.
- If you suffered a great trauma or abuse you may want to consider joining a support group or seeing a counsellor.
- There is a lovely Hawaiian forgiveness practice called Ho‘oponopono, the word means ‘to make things right’ or ‘to put things into balance’. There are many books, webpages and videos available to give you an idea how to use it.
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.
Make sure to Forgive Yourself Too!
Anxiety often arises when we fear that we’ve done something wrong. Our guilty conscience causes anxiety at a deep level. Forgiveness helps us to love ourselves deeply, relieving us of inner pain.
You may have acted in ways that were out of character because of your hurt feelings. You may have had vengeful thoughts or made hurtful remarks. Use the same methods to forgive yourself so you can truly let go and move on.
I hope you found this article interesting and useful. If you like this take look at some of my other pages or blog posts where I talk about different therapies and my own wellbeing journey. If you’d like to see my future content then please enter your email and press subscribe below and you will be alerted when I publish anything new. Thank You for taking the time to read this. Until next time, I wish you all the very best. Janet x
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