Forgiveness: The ultimate gift you can give yourself
Forgiveness is about releasing anger and resentment against someone who has wronged you. Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves, and other times we need to forgive another person. Forgiveness is not always easy, but can be an incredibly powerful tool for creating happiness and inner peace.
Think about any current resentment you have. Perhaps it is someone who wronged you at work, a family member or friend, the government or yourself. Now ask yourself: “Does holding this anger make me feel any better about the pain this person has caused?”
Forgiveness is the antidote to the negative energy produced by holding a grudge. As one of my clients described it, “Forgiving has allowed me to put down that 50 pound weight I’ve been carrying around with me for years. Now I feel like I’m almost floating: I’m so free.”
… a gift to yourself that relieves the emotional and physical burdens of resentment.
… a choice to improve your entire life: mentally, physically and spiritually.
… an act performed because you’ve been wronged (not because the act wasn’t wrong).
Forgiveness is not…
… forgetting, denying or condoning the event or the pain it caused.
… an act that can only be performed if the other person asks for it, feels remorse or is still in your life: it doesn’t rely on anyone but you.
… the same as reconciliation, which needs a resolution between two parties.
… an indication that you will allow the event to happen again.
Consider Dong Yun Yoon, a Korean immigrant whose house was the crash site for a jet that lost control. Dong’s wife, two young daughters and mother-in-law were killed in the incident, but Dong himself was at work at the time.
The plane’s pilot ejected moments before the impact and survived. About this, Dong pleaded, “Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident… I don’t blame him. I don’t have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could.”
Forgiving the pilot for this unimaginable tragedy didn’t mean that Dong felt no pain for the incident; the new widower fought back tears during a press conference after the event, obviously devastated and heartbroken. “I know there are many people who have experienced more terrible things,” he said, “but please tell me how to do it. I don’t know what to do.”
Your Prescription: Find the strength to forgive
If you’re finding forgiveness a difficult thing to do, know that you’re not alone. For most of us, this act requires changing our mindsets and learning new skills. For example, many of my clients get to the stage where they understand how important forgiveness is, but don’t know how to put it into practice. I advise them to do the following:
1. Identify your forgiveness barriers. Obstacles to forgiveness often include:
— Unrealistic desires (such as a desire to change the past or have the person who wronged you change).
— Not taking accountability for what you can do now.
— Viewing yourself as a victim rather than as a champion over challenges.
Once you know what these obstacles are, you can begin to overcome them.
2. Identify and accept your reasons for forgiveness. We all have different goals and motivations in our lives. To begin to forgive, we need to know why we want to put energy and effort into doing this. The benefits of forgiveness include:
— Improved overall psychological well-being.
— Enhanced physical health (such as lower blood pressure, heart rate, chronic pain and muscle tension).
— Improved sleep.
— More energy.