Forgiveness is Healthy

All of us have been wronged by some­one else at some point in our lives. Whether by a friend, fam­ily mem­ber, or total stranger, each of us have expe­ri­enced the anger and pain that comes with being betrayed or mis­treated. When this hap­pens, it can be easy to develop a grudge against the one who wronged us. Some­times, we hang onto the anger and pain for years. Doing so is bad not only for our emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal health, but also for our phys­i­cal well-being.

At times like these, we may won­der who can deliver us from our bit­ter­ness and anger. The answer is pretty sim­ple: We are the only ones who can deliver our­selves, through the process of forgiveness.

First, it may be help­ful to define the term “for­give­ness”. Most peo­ple agree that for­give­ness is a process of let­ting go of resent­ment and thoughts of retal­i­a­tion, and replac­ing those feel­ings with feel­ings of love, com­pas­sion, and empa­thy for the offend­ing per­son. Learn­ing to for­give brings many men­tal, phys­i­cal, and emo­tional health ben­e­fits, such as:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower lev­els of stress, anx­i­ety, and hostility
  • Health­ier relationships
  • Fewer symp­toms of depression
  • Less like­li­hood of alco­hol or sub­stance abuse

Some peo­ple don’t for­give peo­ple who wrong them because they sim­ply may not know how. Some experts see for­give­ness as a two-step process. The first step is griev­ing, or allow­ing one­self to feel the full affect of the pain, trauma, and anger caused by the tres­pass. The sec­ond step is let­ting go of that neg­a­tive emo­tion by focus­ing on grat­i­tude, kind­ness, and com­pas­sion. Here are a few thoughts that may help with that process.

  • Try to see the sit­u­a­tion from the offend­ing person’s point of view. Try to under­stand why the one who hurt you did what they did. There may be a very valid rea­son for the offense, and under­stand­ing that may help soften your feel­ings toward them.
  • Change the story you tell your­self so that you’re a sur­vivor who is hope­ful for the future, rather than a vic­tim with an axe to grind. Never aban­don the idea that although you’ve been hurt, you still have a spot­less future.
  • Remem­ber that there is no such thing as fair. That may help reduce the feel­ing that some­one owes you restitution.
  • Try to think of a time when you offended some­one and they for­gave you. Remem­ber how that felt and try to envi­sion how grant­ing your for­give­ness to some­one else might make them feel.
  • Real­ize that for­give­ness isn’t about the offend­ing per­son chang­ing their behav­ior. It’s about how it can trans­form your life and lead you to peace and contentment.

It may also be help­ful to jour­nal about how you feel, as get­ting your thoughts down on paper helps you to under­stand them. You may also con­sider prayer or vis­it­ing with objec­tive peo­ple you con­sider wise and com­pas­sion­ate. Remem­ber, for­give­ness is an action verb, a com­mit­ment to a process of change. It may be very hard work, but it will leave you a much health­ier and hap­pier person.