How Do I Forgive Others and Let Go of Grudges? 

Even though forgiveness can lead to inner peace and may improve your overall well-being, admittedly, it’s easier said than done. This is understandable given how challenging it is to stop detesting someone who’s hurt you physically, mentally, or emotionally. But isn’t it more difficult to hold on to hate?

This article will help you understand what forgiveness is and how you can benefit from it. You’ll also discover how it can contribute to a better mental state. The road to forgiveness may be long, but it’s absolutely worth it in more ways than one.

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What Is Forgiveness?

When you forgive someone, you intentionally choose to not seek vengeance and not harbor any resentment or negative feelings toward them. Forgiveness has to do with accepting reality and living your life despite the pain that’s been inflicted upon you.

Your ability to forgive is mostly influenced by your religious beliefs, family values, and personal beliefs. Tranquility is the very essence of forgiveness. You experience this when you decide to let go of your grudges and hostilities toward the one who’s wronged you.

Effects of Forgiveness on Mental and Physical Health

The stress that comes with holding on to pain, anger, and the inability to forgive can lead you to develop various problems in your body and mind. Over time, it’s possible for you to have anxiety and depression, cardiovascular issues, muscle tension, and a poor immune system.

What can happen if you opt for forgiveness? Here’s how doing so can impact your mental health:

It Helps in Your Healing Process

The moment you forgive a person, you remove the resentment you’ve been holding on to for so long. This is because forgiveness requires releasing one’s pain and unresolved emotions. Stubbornly hanging on to such negativity is like choosing to live in the dark when there’s an option to bring light into your life.

It Can Improve Relationships

Anger and resentment manifest in your relationship not only with the person who wronged you but also with everyone else around you. When you can’t forgive even just one individual, you might be prone to losing your temper, having trust issues, and struggling to establish and maintain new relationships.

It’s inevitable for us to meet others whose opinions go against ours. In those cases, forgiveness can make you more patient and tolerant. What’s more, you interrupt them less and take their viewpoint into account.

It Can Aid in Reconciliation

Your relationship with a person who hurt you may not be the same it once was after you forgive them. However, prior to apologizing, they’re likely to open their eyes, become fully aware of their mistakes, and regret their actions. This gives them an opportunity to learn and grow from the experience, which would benefit the two of you in the long run.

Forgiveness and Conflict Resolution

Forgiveness and reconciliation are often used in conflict resolution. Through them, you move on from the past and accept the new relationship between you and the person who wronged you.

Conflict resolution is about resolving disagreements that may lead to lingering negative emotions and, sometimes, physical fights. What’s important to remember here is that all your hurts are in the past, not in the present. Forgiveness allows you and the other person to see the incident as a relational one resulting from failed interaction. It paves the way for the both of you to reconnect and rebuild burned bridges.

Why Is Forgiving Hard?

Not only can forgiving seem like a mountain to climb, but it can also sound impossible at times. It’s tough to do because it entails stepping away from all the anger and pain that’s accumulated inside you. You also have to forget any thoughts of seeking revenge. Most of all, you feel as though you’re letting the person who hurt you get away with it.

Forgiveness is challenging since it’s almost like you’re allowing the person to simply waltz back into your life when that’s perhaps the last thing you want. If you forgive someone, you might feel that you’re only giving them a chance to hurt you again.

Some may think that it’s pointless to forgive a person who has passed away, is unaware that they hurt you in the first place, or isn’t the least bit sorry for their actions. However, it still has to be done. What makes forgiveness particularly hard in those instances is the fact that the process requires you to forget what happened. Usually, people forget events that are of no importance, so doing that to a hurtful, significant memory could feel wrong even if it’s not.

Are You Ready to Forgive?

If you want to determine where you’re ready to forgive, ask yourself these three questions:

Whom Am I Doing This For?

The only person who can decide to forgive is you. Even if your family and friends encourage you to see past someone’s mistakes and move on, if you’re not yet ready, forgiveness won’t come easy. Being prepared is a must if you want to resolve your issues of frustration and pain once and for all.

What’s My Perspective?

After anyone hurts or disrespects you, it’s normal for you to process and acknowledge your emotions. Take the time to reflect on the situation. You have to consider whether what you’re feeling is because of the incident itself or your memory of feeling betrayed.

Am I Ready to Work on Forgiving? 

Genuine forgiveness requires effort. Simply saying “I forgive you” isn’t enough. You need to have a deeper understanding of the other person and their circumstances in order for forgiving to be effective.

How Do I Forgive Others? 

Truth be told, forgiving isn’t easy nor is it instant. You have to prepare for it mentally and emotionally. At first, you might believe you’re incapable of it, especially if the person did something appalling to you.

But think about it this way: if you were the one at fault, wouldn’t you want to be forgiven, too? These are some of the things you should do before you forgive anyone:

Turn Your Feelings Into Words

You know you’re ready when you can finally put into words what happened, what you felt, and how you want to move forward. You can express your feelings to someone you trust. They could be a spiritual leader, loved one, friend, or therapist.

Meditation can greatly help if you’re still struggling with this. Again, forgiveness is a process, so the results don’t come overnight. If you haven’t stopped hurting, it might be difficult to see the benefits you can gain from forgiving.

You need adequate emotional space for your healing. That’s why you have to embrace the values of compassion and understanding in preparation for forgiveness.

Start Forgiving the Small Things

Understandably, forgiving big hurts may bring about some hesitation, so you’ll need more time to work on that. For a start, you can practice forgiving smaller personal offenses you might encounter in your everyday life. The following are a few examples:

  • A coworker took your favorite pen from your table without permission.
  • Your partner forgot to pay the bills.
  • Someone cut the line in front of you.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

More than anything, it’s painful to get hurt by someone near and dear to you. Apart from anger, you’re likely to experience feelings of confusion, disappointment, and betrayal. 

You have to accept that those are normal and that acknowledging them is taking one step toward healing. You won’t be able to move on if you keep ignoring your emotions and don’t do anything about them.

Don’t Go to Sleep Angry

When you sleep, your body may lie mostly still, but your brain remains active. According to peer-reviewed studies, your subconscious mind creates your reality based on your current thoughts and feelings. Therefore, if you go to bed feeling angry, then expect that you’ll still be bitter and full of resentment when you wake up. On top of that, you may feel anxious because of the hate and have trouble getting proper shut-eye.

How do you relax and quell any sort of negativity before going to bed? You can try listening to words of affirmation or calming music and visualizing your desires in life. Divert your attention to things that’ll make you feel good and happy.

Forgive Yourself First

If you can’t do this, how can you expect to do the same to another person? One possible reason you find it hard to forgive is that you’re still struggling to accept your shortcomings. Perhaps you keep blaming yourself for what happened and are filled with guilt and shame.

In order to forgive others, it’s vital to learn self-compassion and self-forgiveness. You have to be kinder and more considerate toward yourself. In doing so, you’ll understand what it takes to forgive and be able to apply what you’ve learned to those who’ve hurt you.

Set Strong Boundaries

Forgiveness doesn’t change the fact that someone hurt you and you’ve suffered a great deal. You have to create boundaries between you and the other person so you won’t have to go through the same experience with them again.

Clearly state what your boundaries are as well as detailed consequences for when they’re ignored or violated. Doing this will allow you to forgive while ensuring that the incident won’t reoccur.

Be Compassionate and Kind

Forgiving can become almost effortless when you practice empathy and compassion. Don’t focus your attention on the negative experience. When you view it through a kind lens, you’ll realize that the one who wronged you is also human, imperfect and makes mistakes.

Of course, this perspective doesn’t invalidate the pain inflicted on you. Rather, it redirects your focus on selflessness and kindness, not pain and revenge.

Should it seem as if you’re about to explode because of irritation, anger, or frustration, try telling yourself “I am responsible for my feelings. I am working on this.” Retaliation and revenge-seeking are not the answers to your problems.

Put Everything Into Writing

You have to write down what was done to you and what you felt about it. This can be your form of release and relaxation. However, its main purpose is for you to have all of your thoughts in one place where you can go over and reflect on them. You should also take note of what forgiveness is to you and why you want to forgive a specific person.

Act On It

Forgiving someone is primarily for your benefit and not for the person who wronged you, so you don’t have to let them know directly that they’re forgiven. Remember: forgiveness begins and ends with you. Whether you contact the person or not, you can still forgive them. 

If you insist on talking to them about it, then go ahead and do it. See to it, though, that you’re 100% ready to come face-to-face with them. If not, the outcome might not be as positive as you’d expected.

Seek Professional Help

You don’t have to take the journey to forgiveness alone. When you feel that your emotions have become too heavy to bear, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Surely, some people would be willing to listen to and support you. You can turn to family, friends, or even counselors.

Image from Flickr by Vic

Benefits of Forgiving for Your Physical and Mental Health

If you constantly practice compassion and forgiveness, you’ll find life more pleasurable and harmonious. Here are some of the advantages of practicing forgiveness:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Less anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved immune system and heart health

You Focus on the Good That Life Offers

Since it’s impossible to please and get along with everyone you meet, it’s inevitable for stones to be thrown at you at certain points in your life. But if you set your mind to focus on the silver lining as often as possible, the forgiveness process might not be such a burden for you.

Not everything happens because of luck or destiny–you have control over your life. You can find your purpose no matter how difficult the circumstances get, and you can certainly make every day worth smiling about by choosing to forgive.

You Enhance Your Emotional Health

To have good emotional health, you need to continuously work on your self-growth and empathy continuously. When you’ve filled your basket with a positive perspective, healthy life choices, and a strong support group, you’ll be more than ready to take on various challenges. Those include the challenge of forgiving someone.

You Work on Reaching Your Happiness

To forgive is to not let resentment and bitterness hold you back. You can never achieve lasting happiness if you dwell on the past. Instead, learn from your experiences and take concrete steps to protect yourself from getting hurt again.

Forgiveness Therapy

Forgiveness therapy is common nowadays. Nurturing forgiveness in therapy involves uncovering your anger, allowing yourself to commit to forgiving, and, eventually, forgiving the person.

The goal of forgiveness therapy is for you to understand what you’ve experienced and find a new purpose in life. If you’re the one at fault, it’ll help you accept the mistakes you’ve made and learn to ask for forgiveness from those you’ve wronged.

Forgiveness Takes Time

As the old saying goes, time heals all wounds, and with that healing can come forgiveness if you so choose. It might take days, months, or even years for you to finally accept both the person and their mistake. Still, it’s a process you have to go through carefully because you need to be able to grasp what happened and what you’re feeling. You need enough time to consider whether to forgive the person or not.

If the pain continues to have a negative impact on your life, it might be time to ask for expert advice. Counseling Now offers online mental health services in Ohio. We can provide you with the therapy you need to nurture your compassion and increase your capacity for forgiveness. Book an appointment with Counseling Now today.

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