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.