Forgiveness often goes against our human instincts. We are programmed to avoid danger and hurt from anyone who has harmed us or broken our trust. Often people are quick to cut people off more so than trying to work things out and talk things through.
If we choose to hold onto grudges and resent, we carry a heavy burden on ourselves. This can weigh us down with negative emotions. Long-lasting resent can also turn into anger or depression. You can continue to carry this burden but eventually, you will get tired and weak and will have no choice but to let go. The sooner you can move through this, the sooner the weight will be off your shoulders to invite a more peaceful and calm mind space.
Letting go of resentment can release unresolved past conflict. Forgiveness has been found to improve mental health, as we let go of the negative emotions and thoughts that we attach to past experiences. It is important to be honest and open with ourselves about what it is that hurt us and the challenges we will face to move forward from it.
Those who struggle to forgive can often find it difficult to be open and loving in their relationships. Studies have also found that non-forgiveness can decrease self esteem, self worth and being able to accept ourselves and our mistakes. We can become too consumed by our thoughts that we are not able to enjoy the present and go on with life in a positive way. It can also affect our relationships with others and our meaning in life.
You might be wondering, ‘Why should I forgive that person for doing something so bad!?’ Forgiveness isn’t always about having a conversation with the person that hurt you. It is an internal process of letting go of the negative thoughts and feelings of resentment, anger, bitterness and the need for revenge toward someone or something that happened to us. Forgiveness is not about excusing what happened, forgetting the past or condoning the act, but rather a process that promotes healing.
For many people, holding onto grudges may feel like you hold back your power and strength. However, there is much more power held when we can listen to our pain and suffering, to find ways to manage it. By avoiding or suppressing our emotions we are only doing a disservice to ourselves. Only you have the power to witness your headspace, so let’s make it the most pleasant place we can be.
Forgiveness has many forms which can include changes within; our thoughts, our behaviour, others behaviours, our emotional experience and decision making processes. It is possible to become more forgiving although it does take significant effort and change to do so. The best place to start would be to acknowledge our pain and begin with forgiving ourselves first. We are often our own worst critics. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, and that is okay. The sooner we can accept this of ourselves, the better. We can then extend this knowledge to forgiving others.
The practice of compassion with ourselves can increase our empathy and understanding of others as well. It can also reduce our self-punishment. We can also try to look for meaning in our suffering. If we are able to analyse why we are hurt and learn from these experiences, only then can we get better at making decisions and going about our lives. We might find strength in our ability to cope and be resilient.
Can you think of something you want to let go of?