What is Forgiveness?

forgive-on-stonesPsychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Many of us feel that when we forgive somebody, we’re doing them a favor. Perhaps they’ve changed, or apologized, or maybe we feel that we made them suffer enough. The reality is, that the main beneficiary of forgiveness is the forgiver.

Every time we harbor ill will, a hateful feeling, or persistent negativity towards someone we do harm to ourselves. When we remember the wrongs done to us, we dwell on the ill feelings about those who hurt us. We relive those negative emotions, suffering past pain all over again, this process can affect us not only emotionally but eventually even physically, manifesting itself through our bodies and our health.

To forgive is not always easy, at times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness. However, it is the most important single process that brings peace to our soul, harmony to our life and allows us freedom from the weight of our suffering which in turn brings peace of mind.

So how to forgive a wrong? It isn’t easy, it goes against our human nature. Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. Here are some ideas:

  • Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
  • Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
  • Actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you, when you’re ready
  • Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
  • As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt, you might even find compassion and understanding.

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace, 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

There is no guarantee that the offending party will reciprocate, however for you this is the beginning of a positive change in your life.

Forgiveness improves our health, the benefits of forgiveness seem to come largely from its ability to reduce negative affect such as feelings of tension, anger, depression and fatigue.

Forgiveness makes us happier, forgiving others can make people feel happy, especially when they forgive someone to whom they feel close.

Forgiveness boosts kindness and connectedness, those who feel forgiving don’t only feel more positive toward someone who hurt them, they are also more likely to volunteer for a good cause and they feel more connected to other people in general.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: ” Forgiveness is the path to true enduring peace.”

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