Forgiveness can be really hard, but the beautiful truth about forgiveness is that it actually sets us free.
Anyone can hold a grudge but it takes a person with character to forgive. When you forgive, you release yourself from a painful burden. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what happened was ok, and it doesn’t mean that person should still be welcome in your life or that you should forget what happened. It just means you have made peace with the pain, and are ready to let go. You see, forgiveness is not something we do for other people, but something that we do for ourselves to heal and move forward.
“One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul”.
~ Brigitte Nicole
The ability to forgive and to let go of past hurts and pains is one of the hardest challenges many of us face. It certainly isn’t always easy to forgive someone who has hurt you but it is absolutely necessary in order for you to sustain long term peace and happiness. In the process of uncovering and letting go of anger, we can restore hope and move on with life. Real forgiveness takes courage and determination.
“People, upon rationally determining that they have been unfairly treated, forgive when they willfully abandon resentment and related responses (to which they have a right) and endeavor to respond to the wrong doer based on the moral principle of beneficence, which may include compassion, unconditional worth, generosity and moral love (to which the wrong doer by nature of the hurtful act or acts, has no right.)”, Dr. Robert Enright.
Here are some key points about forgiveness:
- Forgiveness and trust are two different things. You can forgive someone for their behaviour and still decide this isn’t someone to trust in your life, or maybe you can allow them to build back that trust over time.
- You can forgive someone and still hold them accountable for their actions. You can forgive someone without condoning or excusing what they did. Forgiveness does not minimise or justify the bad behaviour. It just allows you to release your own emotional pain to bring you peace and freedom. It allows you to heal so the other person’s bad behaviour no longer holds power over you and keeps you ‘stuck’ in anger and resentment.
- Forgiveness is a choice. You must be willing to forgive, even if you are not sure how.
- By forgiving we refuse to play the victim and we let go of the control and power that the offending person has over us. We choose not to allow grudges, hurt or pain to define our lives.
How do we let go and forgive?
- Acknowledge what hurt or offended you:
Accept what has happened and reflect upon it. Take note of how you reacted and how it has affected your health and well-being. Don’t try and sweep it under the carpet or down play the offense. Admit what happened and how you responded or reacted.
Practice articulating what was unacceptable about the situation.
- Look for a broader perspective:
Make an attempt to understand the other person. Was the offense deliberate, or merely mindless and insensitive? Does the other person even know they’ve hurt you? Were they being selfish or reckless or are they suffering from something else that was at play?
Going through the process of trying to understand the situation sheds new light on the matter and can reduce the level of hurt. Sometimes it can even dissolve it. Perhaps they were having a bad day or perhaps you yourself had been insensitive?
If the behaviour was deliberate and intended to hurt you, reframe it. Accept that the other person’s bad behaviour is only a comment on their own state of mind and not a comment on you. After all it was their behaviour. It belongs to them.
- Work through the emotions:
Acknowledge the emotions but do not get stuck in them. Anger is a secondary emotion to pain. Label the emotions as this can help decrease the strength of the emotion and allow it to pass. Practice stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, exercise – anything soothing. Write your thoughts out on paper, or express your emotions to a close and trusted friend. Do not deny yourself the right to your emotions. Accept them and let them go.
- Commit to letting go and moving on:
Remember the first reason for forgiveness is about allowing yourself to move forward in peace. Letting go and moving on can take time so be patient with yourself too.
There are many negative consequences from holding onto anger and resentment.
Researchers have noted the following consequences:
- Feeling that life lacks meaning or purpose
- Loss of valuable connections
- Physical illnesses
- Reduced immune system
- Increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse
Scientists and researchers have also discovered many benefits to forgiveness:
- Increased happiness
- Increased immune system
- Restored positive thoughts
- Overall positive psychological well being
- Increased compassion and understanding
- Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
- Ability to function better a t home, in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships
- Increased hope and optimism for the future.
- Get Professional Help if you need it:
If you find it too difficult to let go, if the incident was too traumatic or ongoing, consider enlisting the help of a professional. Having peace of mind and being able to move forward clearly are more than worth your while. You can enlist a counsellor / coach like myself who is certified in NLP, Matrix therapies or a psychologist or even a kinesiologist.
An Exercise in Forgiveness:
- At the end of the day today, schedule in some alone time to unwind.
- Make sure you’re in a place where you feel safe, and will not be interrupted or feel judged by anyone.
- Write the name of the person you need to forgive on a piece of paper. If you want you can write down the names of everyone you need to forgive.
- Now forgive that person or each person. Say it out allowed “I forgive [name]”.
- Think about each and every one of those people, and wish them the best in life. Understand that the only way they would have hurt you was if they were in a bad place themselves. Find a place of compassion for their own pain and wish them healing.
- If a lesson has been learnt thank them for the lesson.
- Hope for them to find peace. Say “I hope you find peace [name].”
- Let out all of the pent up emotion. Cry if you have to. We spend way too much time trying to look strong in front of the world, suppressing all our pain, and this is what causes us to snap at people over petty things because we store up angry energy. Tears are a washing away of this ego, of releasing these negative emotional energies and they allow you to feel new again.
- When you are all finished, burn the piece of paper. Allow it to represent a moment of closure. A moment to move on to what life has in store for you next.