Forgiveness means giving up the suffering of the past and being willing to forge ahead with far greater potential for inner freedom. Besides the reward of letting go of a painful past, there are powerful health benefits that go hand-in-hand with the practice of forgiveness.
Forgiveness transforms anger and hurt into healing and peace. Forgiveness can help you overcome feelings of depression, anxiety, and rage, as well as personal and relational conflicts.
Health Belief of Forgiveness
There are powerful health benefits that go hand-in-hand with the practice of forgiveness. In the physical domain, forgiveness is associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as overall stress relief. It is also associated with improving physical symptoms, reducing fatigue in some patient populations, and improving sleep quality. In the psychological domain, forgiveness has been shown to diminish the experience of stress and inner conflict while simultaneously restoring positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Strategy model for learning how to forgive
Inquire deeply about the root of your anger or grudge. Look at the situation honestly, without embellishing or rearranging the details. Pay attention to how this anger is holding you back and keeping you hostage in your own day-to-day existence.
Review your grievance story and reengineer that story so you see yourself in a more empowered way. Perhaps you chose to disengage or limit your time spent with a friend or family member that has consistently been hurtful to you. Perhaps you left a toxic partner. You had the fortitude to leave a bad situation. You were indeed the survivor and hero in your own story. Look at the strengths that you developed as a result of this situation. Being hurt or compromised can be your invitation to a transformative new path and a more fulfilling life.
- Develop Capacity
Develop your capacity for empathy and compassion for yourself for landing in a painful situation. Blaming yourself for not seeing the signs sooner doesn’t help, and slows down the process of making change. Also, in my professional experience, usually abusers have been abused themselves, and they are operating at a deficit. Without accepting their hostile behaviors, try to understand the pain and suffering that he or she must be enduring. You can understand and forgive without accepting bad or abusive behavior.
- Create New Association
Create new associations with your old story of neglect or abuse. Perhaps you can practice a ritual that signifies the end of things as they were and say goodbye to the past as you once experienced it. Welcome the good, the support, and the love that you now invite into your life. Light a candle, for example, to symbolize the brightness of the moment and the days ahead, or gather some friends to celebrate the end of an era and the beginning of a new phase of life.
Remember that you cannot control others, but you can control your own choices. As you continue to reshape your grievance story — becoming the hero of that story, developing empathy, and compassion for the abuser and celebrating your strengths — you will undoubtedly begin to notice a shift in your consciousness. Your feelings of anger and sadness are likely to quiet down and your self-esteem is likely to blossom, as well as all your relationships.