Practicing Forgiveness

Do you sometimes find it difficult to forgive other people? Think back to a time when someone hurt you with his or her words or actions. How did you respond? Were you able to forgive?

The ability to forgive is an important component for our own personal growth and happiness. Holding on to hurt, pain, resentment, and anger harms us far more than it harms the offender. We should all strive to better forgive others, as well as ourselves. Let’s clarify what forgiveness involves, and explore why it’s beneficial to practice forgiveness…

Forgiveness usually involves letting go of resentment or revenge. It may not always be easy to forgive because we each bring our own set of beliefs about forgiveness to any situation. Those beliefs affect our ability to forgive, regardless of if they are accurate or not. By clarifying what forgiveness entails, we can challenge our beliefs and better practice forgiveness.

Here are some myth-busters about forgiveness:

  • To forgive does NOT mean you can no longer have negative feelings about it.

  • To forgive does NOT mean that you are letting the other person get away with doing something hurtful.

  • To forgive does NOT mean that you are excusing someone from taking responsibility for his or her actions.

  • To forgive does NOT mean that you condone wrongdoing.

  • Reaching a place of true forgiveness does NOT mean that you believe that someone’s actions were okay when they were not.

  • Just because you forgive, it does NOT mean you have to forget.

  • Forgiving does NOT mean you are weak.

  • To forgive does NOT mean that you have to keep a relationship with that person.

In addition, there are many benefits to practicing forgiveness. By releasing yourself from hurt, bitterness, and other negative feelings, you can feel more at peace as you move on. Other benefits of forgiving include:

  • 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

Starting today, challenge yourself to re-consider your own assumptions and beliefs about forgiveness. Make it a goal to practice forgiveness, so you can improve your relationships and your overall health. Don’t dwell on resentment, anger, and pain. Find peace in the fact that you can forgive others (and yourself), and feel better for it.

Source: “Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness” by Mayo Clinic Staff