Forgiveness: What It Is and Why You Need It
Forgiveness. One of the most difficult challenges that we all face in life, yet one of the most important. What is forgiveness? What does it mean to forgive someone for something they have done wrong? How do you know if you should forgive someone or not? We’ll explore what forgiveness is. Why it’s so important. Ways to find closure and heal from past wounds after forgiving those who hurt us. As well as the other research about how healing through forgiveness can change your life for the better!
What is Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It doesn’t happen instantly and often takes time to work through the feelings of anger, fear, betrayal, etc., that forgiveness can bring up. Forgiving someone means letting go of your past in relation to negative thoughts or feelings and transmuting them into positive thoughts or feelings. Many people think of forgiveness as only letting go or moving on. But there’s more to it than that, says Bob Enright, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who pioneered the study of forgiveness three decades ago. If forgiveness has been achieved, it usually ends with positive action, he says, such as offering positive empathy, compassion, understanding toward the person who hurt you (Weir, 2017).
Why Forgiveness is So Important
We can’t live in the past and harbor hatred or anger towards those who have wronged us. We must find a way to heal ourselves. One way to start healing is taking the steps to forgive others.
Everett Worthington, Ph.D., had been studying forgiveness for nearly a decade when he was faced with a horrific incident in which his mother was murdered in a home invasion. Worthington and a colleague, Toussaint suggest that stress relief is probably the primary factor connecting forgiveness and well-being. “We know chronic stress is bad for our health,” Toussaint says. “Forgiveness allows you to let go of the chronic interpersonal stressors that cause us an undue burden.”
Resentment is Linked to Heart Disease
In one meta-analysis, for example, found that anger and hostility are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and poorer outcomes for people with existing heart disease (Chida, 2009). Forgiveness can also help rebuild self-esteem, Enright adds. “When people are beaten down by injustice, you know who they end up not liking? Themselves,” he says. “When you stand up to the pain of what happened to you and offer goodness to the person who hurt you, you change your view of yourself.”
Forgiveness is necessary. Holding on to resentments only hurts our health. From Bill Wilson, who wrote the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” Especially when there’s nothing left but the pain from what was done to us. We must process that for ourselves and others.
Processing through that pain allows us to understand from a different perspective. This helps us work to regulate our emotions in similar situations moving forward. When you learn to understand others, you understand more about yourself in the process.
What Forgiving is Not
Forgiveness is not bypassing the situation. Forgiveness is not condoning hurtful behavior. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you will be friends with them or want to spend time around them. It means you are letting go of your resentment, anger, and hatred towards a person who has wronged you. Letting go of these feelings is necessary so we can move on with our lives if they’re still in it or find peace without harboring negative feelings for years to come.
How to Begin Forgiving Someone
Ways of finding closure after forgiving: Some people need more time than others before moving forward from an event where they suffered some kind of emotional pain or trauma. So what are some ways to find closure with someone that has hurt you?
- Write a letter to the person you resent and want to forgive, but don’t send it.
- Make peace with what happened in your life by talking about it or writing down memories of how things were before the event.
- Spend some time alone so that you can reevaluate what’s important when we start latching on to negative feelings for too long without reason.
- Keep reminding yourself that people do bad things sometimes even if they’re close friends, family members, bosses, or acquaintances; everyone deserves an opportunity at forgiveness.
- Find someone else who has been through something similar and connect with them by talking through it – this will help remind us that there are others going through these same emotions as well.
- Dive deeper into Everett Worthington’s REACH forgiveness method. With his mother being murdered, this method’s research was taken to a whole new personal level.
Focus on Self-Healing
Forgiveness is more than just letting go of anger and resentment, it’s about healing on a whole-person level. On our self-healing platform, you’ll learn it is no secret that our human behaviors tend to be easily adaptive to instant coping skills that result in temporary relief instead of healing. When we’re forgiving others, we allow them and ourselves to be in the present without any tension, expectation or worry. These actions of empathy help free both parties involved.
Forgiveness is an essential part of moving past the situation. We need empathy to forgive people, which means recognizing their reasons for hurting you in order to see if your feelings correspond with theirs. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. It means understanding and healing past the hurt in order to move on toward a better future.
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Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2009). The association of anger and hostility with future coronary heart disease: a meta-analytic review of prospective evidence. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 53(11), 936–946. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2008.11.044
Weir, K., 2017. Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. [online] https://www.apa.org. Available at: <https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/01/ce-corner> [Accessed 14 April 2021].