It is not easy to forgive.
The very existence of the need to use the word implies that we have been hurt in some way. Forgiving a grievance, whether real or imagined, will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself. This is so whether you believe the individual deserves such kindness or not.
When we refuse to forgive, we become resentful. Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison, and expecting the individual that wronged us to suffer. It can also be compared to inflicting wounds on our own bodies, and expecting someone else to feel the pain.
This logic is not only riddled with flaws, it is also quite dangerous. Resentment can easily become hate and hatred is a very ugly thing.
But why do we find it so hard to forgive?
If forgiving someone who hurt us will be so beneficial, why does the very idea of letting go of the hurt make us feel so uneasy?
The real problem lies in the fact that none of us want to continue reliving the horror of whatever wrong was done to us. But as we continue to think about how badly we were hurt, we unconsciously begin to think about making the individual pay for what they did. Our flawed sense of justice often compels us to believe that if we hold on to all the pain that was caused and refuse to let it go, we will be getting the justice we deserve.
This is especially so when the individual does not appear to be sorry for what they have done.
Unfortunately, we cannot force the individual to become a better person by resentfully withholding our friendship or kindness from them. We are only hurting ourselves as we force our minds to relieve the pain over and over again.
While we are angrily storming through life with the heaviness of resentment in our hearts, our countenance, our speech, and our mood will be adversely affected.
Despite the fact that we may have been wronged by one or maybe a few individuals, everyone around us will begin to be affected. Resentment often causes us to be irritable, depressed, and generally very unpleasant. And to make matters worse, it is often the people we love and not the people that wronged us, who will end up suffering as a result of what took place.
The weight of resentment has also been known to affect our memory, productivity at work, ability to perform routine tasks, ability to focus, and even our sex drive. Being bitter, and refusing to forgive has also been linked to weakened immune systems, poor heart health, and even high blood pressure. As you can see, refusing to forgive will never prove beneficial.
But what exactly is forgiveness?
Is it simply forgetting what took place?
Does forgiveness mean we simply pretend that nothing happened?
Nope. It is not that simple. When we forgive, we must involve more than our words.
We must change how we think and feel about the individual.
It is as if we are allowing them to start with a clean slate all over again. You refuse to allow the situation to cause you or the parties involved to hurt you any longer. This requires a high level of emotional intelligence, self-control, and love. Forgiveness is not just “letting them off the hook” for what they did, it is allowing those involved to stop dwelling in the past and move on to more important things.
“Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love, and you radiate that love outward. You need to refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds.” – Wayne Dyer
Becoming that enraged as a result of someone else’s actions, and allowing yourself to remain upset over what took place for an extended period of time, is really giving the individual their keys to your happiness. It is as if you are allowing that individual to control you, and they will continue to control you until you muster up the courage needed to forgive them.
Forgiveness is also beneficial because it often results when we become aware of our own faults. It becomes easier for us to forgive when we remember that we too have had to ask for forgiveness many times. Contrary to what we may believe, we are not perfect. We sometimes hurt the people around us, even the ones we love, without even realizing it. When we refuse to harbor resentment and practice forgiveness, it will be easy for those around us to forgive us when we err.
Here are a few reasons why it is beneficial to practice being forgiving:
- You will be a lot happier and in a much better mood
- You will sleep better at night
- You will not jeopardize your job by not being productive
- You will not jeopardize your relationship with your significant other or your family
- You will learn greater self-control and self-awareness
- Your will enjoy greater peace
- You will gain the respect of those around you
- You will no longer feel the pain of the damage that was done
- You will experience less anxiety
- Your self-esteem will increase as you observe your own personal strength
What Forgiveness is Not!
Being forgiving does not mean you have to be a pushover and allow yourself to be hurt over and over again.
While you will let go of any grudge that you may have against the party or parties that wronged you, you certainly do not have to put yourself in a position for you to be hurt that way again. It is perfectly acceptable to be a little more cautious now that you have seen what these people are capable of.
But, please be very careful. In the case of minor offenses, which are those that were not purposefully malicious, do not make the mistake of assuming that the act represents who the person is. Please remember that we all make mistakes, and we too have caused someone else pain.
Forgiveness is also not an opportunity for revenge. Declaring that you have forgiven someone is not a proclamation that you now have the “upper hand.” The persons involved may have been guilty, but they certainly do not owe you anything. Even if they do not apologize, you have still gained quite a lot by extending this peace offering, and letting go of the bitterness that once consumed you. Remember that by being forgiving, you are doing yourself a favor. While they might benefit as a result of your decision, forgiving them is actually a gift to yourself.
How to Forgive
Because we are both aware that forgiving someone who hurt you is not easy, I would never demand that you do so instantly or all at once. You have the option of forgiving in stages. Gradually letting go of your resentment towards the individuals who have wronged you, will ensure that you have enough time to root out any trace of the bitterness you have towards them, out of your mind and heart. If you get the opportunity to see this person often, you can start by simply saying hello.
This may come as a surprise to them because they were not expecting such a kind gesture, and that might open the way for the discussion you both need to get some closure. Sometimes, even though you were wronged, it is best to take the initiative to set matters straight. Always remember how this humble act will benefit you in the long run, whether they appreciate the gesture or not.
Another simple exercise that will help us to forgive is writing down the name of the person or persons that hurt you and listing all that they have ever done to upset you. Once you have completed that list, write a list of all the occasions on which you have hurt someone, and had to ask for forgiveness. This is not something that we are inclined to think about. Seeing in black and white how often we have let our bad habits hurt those around us, especially those we love, may be just the push we need to let go of any grudges we may have. What is even more alarming to some individuals is when they see the names of the person they resent on the list of persons who they have had to ask for forgiveness.
Another useful exercise would be to make a list of all the good things this person has done for you. This exercise will help you to remember that despite their faults, this individual or these individuals, also have many beautiful qualities as well. In the case of those closest to us, these qualities are the very reason why we loved them and kept them close in the first place. Just think, extending the olive branch of peace may even help this person to see the flaw in their thinking and change for the better. You would have made the world a better place by helping just one individual to become a better person. Such kindness does not go unnoticed, or without reward.
It takes a very strong person to be forgiving.
But think of how much better our lives would be if we did not walk around with the bitterness of resentment each day. Letting go of that heavy burden is one of the best ways to heal ourselves. This world was already a catastrophe, and it certainly does not need any more resentment to make it worse.
In the next article we will discuss how being generous can also help us become far happier, and more successful people in this world, simply by being generous.
As always thank you for reading.
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