We all experience times where people in our lives hurt us, excruciatingly so, sometimes. It can be as extreme as the rejection of a spouse or child or fiancé. Although it could simply be a thoughtless, mean even, comment from a friend or coworker that plagues us. Yet we face the same question in all the various scenarios. Will we forgive the person who has hurt us? Should we forgive them, or is that somehow letting them “get away with it”?
Why practice forgiveness?
You might be wondering why you should bother with forgiveness at all. Maybe you feel it is your right to be upset by some offense. Yet, forgiveness is not just for weak or religious people – it’s for everyone. In fact, science shows that forgiveness is actually good for you!
According to the Mayo Clinic here are some things that forgiveness can lead to…
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Higher self-esteem
While it may feel like forgiveness is for the other person, it actually is for you! When we are able to release the toxic burden of bitterness we are free to flourish. I love that higher self-esteem is on the list! We actually feel better about ourselves when we don’t hold others to account for their offenses.
I know from my own experience that forgiveness has been incredibly freeing. When I have been dumped by a boyfriend or rejected by a friend, going through an appropriate “mourning” phase, and then choosing forgiveness has allowed me to flourish. My heart is not tarnished with the rust of bitterness and I have been able to heal and have a receptive heart in new relationships. While challenging in the moment, forgiveness has been a precious gift in my life.
What is forgiveness?
My definition of forgiveness is a little different from most other people’s. I feel that the way I view forgiveness has made all the difference for me in being able to actually practice forgiveness – moving it from an ideal to a reality in my life.
Most everyone agrees that to forgive requires that a person let go of resentment and anger over an offense, to even begin to feel empathy for the person who has wronged you. While this is a huge part of forgiveness, I believe it misses a foundational step.
Foundational to truly being able to forgive another human being is recognizing our own brokenness. In other words we aren’t perfect either and there are times we hurt and offend the people in our lives, sometimes without even knowing it. I believe that recognizing and embracing this is what has made forgiveness possible and long-lasting in my life. It humbles us and that is the perfect foundation for forgiveness, the letting go of offense and embracing or sometimes peacefully moving on.
How do you forgive?
Here are 3 things that have helped me foster forgiveness in my life.
1). As I mention above, recognizing my own imperfections– the fact that I too have, and will, hurt people in life (unintentionally and otherwise). In other words get some perspective and humility.
2). Practicing The Golden Rule. This may seem cheesy, but it really works. Treating people the way we want to be treated can help us foster forgiveness. Do we want people walking around never extending grace to us for any of our mistakes? This works especially well when we have laid the foundation of number 1.
3). Wishing the person who has hurt us well. I know this may seem extremely difficult, but this has worked amazingly to help maintain forgiveness in my heart towards those who have wronged me. Instead of hoping their life falls apart, I hope the opposite. Anytime that person comes to mind I try to pray for them instead of dwelling on past hurt. Over time my feelings actually change and I really do desire good for that person. It’s been so beautiful and freeing!
I hope that you too experience the amazing power of forgiveness in your own life. The benefits it reaps makes it well worth every bit of the effort! I know your life will be all the better and you will be empowered to enjoy every moment as a result. If you haven’t implemented the practice of forgiveness in your life, give it a try and just see what happens!
Forgiveness: Letting go of Grudges and Forgiveness.http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692. Accessed Dec. 25, 2015.