Forgiveness is about goodness, about extending mercy to those who’ve harmed us, even if they don’t “deserve” it. It involves an intentional decision to let go of resentment and anger. It is not about finding excuses for the offending person’s behavior or pretending it didn’t happen. Nor is there a quick formula you can follow.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you. It also doesn’t necessarily mean making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that allows you to focus on yourself and helps you go on with life.
Forgiveness is a process with many steps that often proceeds in a non-linear fashion. But it’s well worth the effort.
What it does for ourselves?
• Working on forgiveness can help us increase our self-esteem and give us a sense of inner strength and safety.
• It can reverse the lies that we often tell ourselves when someone has hurt us deeply—lies like, I am defeated or I’m not worthy.
• Forgiveness can heal us and allow us to move on in life with meaning and purpose.
• It helps us to make more healthier relationships.
• Forgiveness helps improving our mental health as it makes us more calm.
• It makes ourselves less anxious, reduces stress, fewer symptoms of depression and controls high blood pressure.
• It makes our immune system more stronger with improved heart health.
How do I move toward a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to change. It takes practice. To move toward forgiveness, you might –
• Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life.
• Identify what needs healing and who you want to forgive.
• Join a support group or see a counselor.
• Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you, recognize how those emotions affect your behavior, and work to release them.
• Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you.
• Release the control and power that the offending person and situation have had in your life.
People often struggle with forgiveness when they blame themselves, at least in some small way, for what happened.
Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are important tools to have before trying to forgive someone else. It’s important to consider whether self-blame may be getting in the way of your ability to forgive.
Remember, someone else’s decision to hurt you is never your fault.
If you have trouble forgiving yourself, particularly for circumstances where you did nothing wrong, talking to a therapist can help.
What happens if I can’t forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be hard, especially if the person who hurt you doesn’t admit wrongdoing. If you find yourself stuck –
• Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.
• Ask yourself about the circumstances that may have led the other person to behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
• Reflect on times when others have forgiven you.
• Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation. Or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
• Be aware that forgiveness is a process. Even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven again and again.
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