All About Forgiveness
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/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

All About Forgiveness

Whether you have been deeply hurt, you’re holding a grudge, or you’ve just had a falling out with a friend or family member, you are not alone. Many people have had overly critical parents, unfaithful spouses, and vindictive colleagues. We can all benefit from being more forgiving. Opening yourself to forgiveness can help improve your mood, behavior, health, and relationships.

You can decide to forgive. Forgiveness is a generous and loving act that benefits both you and the subject of your anger. It allows you to let go of pain, frustration, and resentment. It welcomes more positivity to your life. According to psychological research, forgiveness can be inspired by emotions or a decision to forgive.

The person may not deserve forgiveness. Surprisingly, being deserving of forgiveness or willing to change is beside the point. The purpose is to release the negative feelings, resentment, and hostility and replace them with empathy and compassion for the person who wronged you. Once you have forgiven them, you can decide in a clearheaded way how to move forward (or not).

Genuineness matters. It has to be real. Truly reflect on the experiences that lead to the hurt, including how you felt and how the anger has affected you. Empathize with the person who hurt you. Harvard Health developed the “REACH method” to describe these and other steps in detail. Those who put in the effort and forgive out of genuine understanding experience better results and stronger relationships than those who feel that forgiving the other person was “giving in.”

You can forgive yourself too. Everybody makes mistakes. Acknowledge that, under the same circumstances today, you would choose differently. You have grown as a person. It’s OK to be who you are now and leave the old you in the past. Note that many find it easier to forgive others after they have forgiven themselves.

You can ask for forgiveness. If you feel as if you have caused harm, asking for forgiveness can be tremendously freeing. With appropriate sincerity and sadness, admit your wrongdoing without excuses. Even if your apology is not accepted, you can benefit from having delivered it.

You can forgive silently. You don’t have to have a conversation with the person who hurt you to feel the benefits. You can write about forgiving or talk to someone you trust.

The benefits of forgiveness. People who have exchanged forgiveness experience tremendous benefits. Some report having the sensation of having “a weight lifted from their shoulders.”

Beyond the initial effects, many go on to enjoy better self-esteem, improved behavioral health, less anxiety and stress, and fewer symptoms of depression. The benefits extend to physical health too. Forgivers experience improved heart health, lower blood pressure, and stronger immune function.

Once you forgive, you can move on from the negative feelings and focus your energy on things that are important to you. You can nurture your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and open a new chapter in previously troubled relationships.

Lori Vadakin is the director of Outpatient and Substance Use Services at United Counseling Service in Bennington.

 

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