The Stanford Forgiveness Project has shown that forgiveness reduces stress, reduces anger, improves the health of your heart and in general is good for your physical and psychological well-being. Forgiveness is also linked to hope, self-confidence and compassion. And, it can benefit people with depression and anxiety as well as benefit those who don’t suffer from these illnesses.
Forgiveness can be hard but it helps to remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. In fact, forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the forgiven. We need to forgive for our own well-being. When we forgive we are able to take back control of our feelings and our way of being in the world. We can take back who we are and let go of the parts that are constricting our well-being.
Growing up Catholic there was a lot of talk about forgiveness. Most articles and thoughts on forgiveness come from religious organizations. Religious forgiveness is hard – love your enemies, turn the other cheek. I don’t think anyone finds it easy to forgive. However, I think that forgiveness has to be older than religion. Forgiveness is the only way that people could survive this long. Forgiveness keeps people together. When we forgive we let go of a lot or a little of the anger, grief or anguish we might feel toward someone else. Forgiveness does not let anyone off the hook, it sets us free, not them.
I admit, I find forgiveness hard but I am always working on it. My biggest experience with forgiveness was with my ex-husband. I held on so tightly to all the anger, pain, distrust and other emotions that surfaced as a result of my divorce for quite some time. (Read My Broken Heart). It took me years to get up the courage to forgive my husband. However, I came to realize that my anger etc. was only hurting me. It wasn’t a healthy place for me.
Bottom line, if we are waiting for an apology for a transgression or other act, we may never get it. If we want to be happy again, if we want to be in charge again, WE are the only ones who can decide how to move forward. Forgiving simply means that you realize the past cannot be changed, something happened and someone else caused it. Just because you forgive the person (whether you tell them or not) doesn’t mean you have to be friends or hang out, it just means YOU are ready to move on and live a life that you want to live.
I discovered a new band while contemplating the idea of forgiveness – The Corrs. Listen to their song Forgiven Not Forgotten.
How do you handle forgiveness?