The topic of forgiveness is getting attention from the health and wellness industries. And many studies have shown that long-term inability to forgive builds up toxic energy in your body – which can lead to both mental and physical illness.
Research has found that:
1. People who forgive report being happier and more at peace from day to day. Happiness and feeling at peace is a key component of mental health.
2. People who forgive are more likely to sustain their relationships. It is inevitable to be hurt by a friend, family member, romantic partner or anyone who is regularly involved in one’s life. Being able to let go of grudges against these individuals improves the quality of the relationships and improves connectedness and feeling of belonging.
3. People experience better physical health when they let go of resentment. Letting go of these types of feelings lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and improves the immune system.
But what exactly is forgiveness?
It’s letting go of grudges against someone who has hurt you or disappointed you and accepting the incident has happened without lingering anger or bitterness. Forgiveness is not about dismissing the event as if it never happened or letting the person get away without taking legal responsibility for his/her actions. It is simply the absence of a grudge while taking necessary actions to set things right.
Why do you struggle to forgive?
The struggle to forgive is caused by your perception of the situation. Everyone has unique trigger points based on their life experience and when these trigger points are activated, people unconsciously hold on to the hurt and blame. Some of these trigger points include:
1. Feeling disrespected, minimized, and insulted (privately or publicly).
2. Feeling powerless to overcome personal setback others have caused.
3. Feeling devalued, used and taken advantage of when you offered yourself in sincerity.
Beware of false forgiveness
Forgiveness doesn’t happen when you say “I forgive you.” It’s usually not instantaneous. To know what stage of forgiveness you’re in you have to tune into your emotions and see if you’re paying lip service or if it’s something you said in the spur of the moment. Feeling forgiveness can fluctuate. There are days you wake up feeling no hurt and then there are days where it all comes back. This is a sign you haven’t really truly forgiven yet, however, forgiveness is on its way.
How do you know when you have forgiven?
Complete forgiveness offers a feeling of emotional freedom and mental peace. With this freedom, you also experience a flash of wisdom about the lesson learned.
So how are you to reach such forgiveness?
1. Get to the root cause of your pain. Ask yourself “Why is it difficult for me to forgive this?” And “Is personal pain from previous experience causing me to hold an unfair grudge against someone?”
2. Evaluate the situation fairly. We are typically less harsh on ourselves when it comes to unforeseen accidents where our behavior hurts others. Somehow, we lose this perspective when others hurt us and we judge others more harshly when our trigger points are activated.
3. Protect yourself from repeated offences: When someone repeatedly hurts you, you have a duty to yourself to leave – it’s not about false forgiveness and patiently waiting for them to change. Distancing yourself from repeated offences will help old wounds heal.
4. Give it time. For many of us, it is a journey of lessons learned and it takes time. What’s important is the daily desire to forgive.
Forgiveness is not so much about others and their actions, as it is about your mindset and ability to shift your beliefs. Staying angry with someone doesn’t mean you are punishing them. While they may only be reminded of your grudge from time to time, it leaves you in the dust of resentment and self-righteousness.
© Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA. All Rights Reserved.