Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU
Forgiveness can be challenging, especially when the offending party offers either an insincere apology or nothing at all. However, it’s often the healthiest path forward, allowing us to acknowledge the wound, understand the other party’s perspective, and process our emotions in non-hurtful ways. Forgiving another person is one thing, but what happens when we commit the offense ourselves? It’s important to take responsibility for mistakes, but intense guilt and shame aren’t good for anyone in the long run.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. 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.
Some people are naturally more forgiving than others. But even if you’re a grudge holder, almost anyone can learn to be more forgiving.
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
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:
- Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
- Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
- Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
- Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them
- Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control
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.
What happens if I can’t forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong. If you find yourself stuck:
- Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.
- Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
- Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
- Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?
If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however.
Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.
Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.