In life, we are hurt by many people, even by those we love the most. Long-lasting anger, bitterness, and grudges take control of our emotions, sometimes even our lives. We forget that letting these emotions control us only damages our own emotional and physical well-being. Embracing and actively practicing forgiveness, even forgiving those who have never apologized to you, will help move you towards a greater sense of peace, gratitude, and joy.
Forgiveness can mean different things to different people, however, it generally involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness can lessen the grip that unwanted and unhealthy emotions have on you and help free you from the control of the person who has harmed you. It can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy, and compassion for the one who hurt you. It is important to remember that forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting or excusing the harm that’s been done, rather, it helps you to peacefully move on in life without carrying around the emotional baggage that comes along with unforgiveness. There are many proven benefits of forgiveness and letting go of grudges and bitterness, such as healthier relationships, improved mental health, less anxiety, stress, and hostility, a more robust immune system, and improved heart health.
Of course, practicing forgiveness is easier said than done. When you are hurt by someone, especially by someone you love and trust, you can feel angry, sad, and confused. This can make it easier for you to dwell on all the hurtful situations and feelings of resentment and hostility you may harbor in your life in general. Even though some people are naturally more forgiving than others, almost anyone can learn to be more forgiving. Holding a grudge makes it difficult to enjoy the present and makes you lose meaningful and enriching connectedness with others.
Sometimes the one who needs our forgiveness is actually ourselves. When people do wrong by you, our first instinct as human beings is to question ourselves and our worth. “Did I do something wrong?” can be the first question that pops up in our minds while we find excuses for others through finding fault in our own actions. In situations such as this, while it is essential to look at the bigger picture and recognize how our own actions, behaviors, and consequences may play into certain situations, it’s important to teach ourselves to stop when we find ourselves making excuses for someone else’s harmful behavior. Learning to forgive yourself is probably the most challenging part of forgiveness, but when you do, life gets a tad easier and healthier.
Journal about your emotions. Take the time to freely express yourself and be radically honest.
Recognize thoughts of condemnation and replace them out loud.
Write down meaningful lessons you have learned from your mistakes and ways you have grown from them.
Role play by pretending the offender was someone else. Stand in front of a mirror and pretend to forgive someone who has wronged you. What would you say to them?
Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself.
Blaming others in certain situations, especially when negative feelings are heated and heightened, is the easiest road to take, and practicing forgiveness towards yourself and others is challenging. However, the benefits that come along with forgiveness makes it one of the healthiest practices we can do. Remember that you can’t force anyone to forgive you; forgiveness takes time and should be done at everyone’s own pace. However, whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy, and respect in honor of everyone's greater well-being.