Forgiving those who have hurt us is something we know we probably should do, but few of us are eager to actually put into practice. When someone has hurt us refusing to forgive someone can seem like one of the only ways to get retribution. There is something extremely gratifying in knowing that forgiveness is ours to withhold.
Too often, we see forgiveness solely as an undeserved kindness we extend to an oppressor. But forgiveness is also a gift we give ourselves—a gift that provides considerable physical and psychological benefits to the giver.
Yes, it can be satisfying to clutch our resentments close to our heart, to replay the injustices done to us over and over. But often, the offending party is oblivious to our anger or underestimates the full extent of it. Meanwhile, we become fixated with the wrongs done to us. The constant rehashing of these wrongs in our minds results in our own torment, but does nothing to punish the injuring party.
Holding on to old resentments is not only unhealthy; it can also hamper our ability to have successful relationships. Bitterness toward one person often seeps into other relationships, causing us to project negative attitudes onto those relationships. Over time, refusal to forgive can also lead to mental anguish and even physical suffering.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of forgiveness include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Less stress and hostility
- Fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain
- Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
- Greater psychological and spiritual well-being
- Healthier relationships
Although forgiveness can be difficult, it is possible. Consider some of the following techniques as you seek to find peace with a situation or person in your life.
1. Choose positive thoughts
Negative thoughts generally bring negative feelings. Choose to focus on gratitude, and the positive times you’ve had in your life and enjoy the positive feelings that follow!
2. Take time to breathe
Take a 10-minute break twice a day to breathe slowly while focusing your mind on a positive time, place or person or just being grateful to be alive.
3. Learn to live without perfection
We all make mistakes. Think of times when you have made mistakes and how grateful you were for others’ forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others for being imperfect. Expect some pain in life and expect humans to make mistakes.
4. Focus on your positive traits
Focus on your abilities, achievements, and goals instead of focusing on others. Focusing on others’ accomplishments can lead to jealousy and endless criticism.
5. Learn the art of detachment.
Detach from the issue or problem causing the pain and look at it without emotion or judgment.
6. Develop empathy
Slow down the pace of making judgments about others and speed up the process of walking in their footsteps. Empathy and understanding of another’s history can ward off a great deal of unnecessary, incorrect interpretations.
7. Chose to let it go
When you forgive others you are not condoning their behavior or giving permission for others to treat you poorly, but by choosing to forgive you let go of the negativity that will weigh you down and keep you stuck in unhappiness.
8. Forgiveness is not a one-time event
True forgiveness can take time, because we may need to replace the old habits of thought with new ones. When we truly forgive someone, we may not forget the offense but we no longer hold resentment toward that person.
While forgiving others can be challenging, it is also ultimately your own best shot at happiness. Refusing to forgive can erode your mental and physical health; it can also compromise your ability to have successful relationships with others. Regardless if you ever receive a satisfactory apology from your offender, choosing to forgive them can release you to live a healthier, happier life.
Research provided by Naomi Brower
Adapted from “Why Forgiveness is Good for You” found on twoofus.org