Ask anyone you meet if they have ever been hurt by another. You will hear a resounding YES! Now ask how they handled the hurt and you will hear many different stories about resentment, revenge, internalizing, depression, anger, and sadness but few stories about forgiveness. Why? Why would anyone hold onto pain if they don’t have to? What is it in our nature to harbor ill feelings or hold onto past pain? Studies show that holding onto emotional pain transpires into physical illness. Dis-ease has been linked to our mental wellbeing. If we have some of the power to heal ourselves, where do we start?
Some call it letting go; others call it forgiving. Not only forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean denying the other person’s responsibility for hurting you. Forgiving someone isn’t excusing the act. Forgiveness is a practice for compassion, empathy, kindness and peace. It’s ‘giving forward’, giving ahead of the person’s ability to fix the wrong. Forgiveness is an entire lifestyle of this way of going about the relational world.
Holding pain inside is a breeding ground for negative feelings. Negative feelings in turn come out through anger, resentment, and the desire to seek vengeance. Negative feelings also keep us from enjoying the present; turning into depression and anxiety ultimately sabotaging those relationships we hold so dear.
Practicing forgiveness is a commitment to change. Moving away from a victim role and taking a more proactive and positive stance on your wellbeing will move you toward a more peaceful and enjoyable life.
Sometimes an act seems unforgivable. Place yourself in their shoes. Consider how you would have reacted or behaved if it were you. Accept that we are all human and have occasional imperfections. With any decision to make a change, journaling is an easy way to document and reflect on your feelings, which will help move you toward your goal.
Forgiveness is within you, there is no guarantee it will change the offender or future acts and therefore it is important for you to know that forgiving someone may not give you the immediate outcome you desire – this is an internal practice that will ultimately change your external world but is a personal practice and not a means to change someone else.
Choose today to forgive and the space in front of you will open up and you can use your new-found energies for significant pursuits.