Did you know that it's been scientifically proven that forgiveness makes you feel better--and healthier? Forgiveness can significantly improve emotional and physical health, as well as mental well-being.
But not to forgiveis our default response whenever we’re hurt, and one too many people stay in that state of unforgiveness. Sure, it’s the easier route but in the long run the more costly.
What is forgiveness?
It’s not merely forgetting the offense and moving on. It’s not even letting someone off the hook or discrediting the wrongful act altogether. According to Bob Enright, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, true forgiveness goes a step further, offering something positive - understanding, compassion, empathy—toward the person who hurt you. These elements make forgiveness both a virtue and powerful concept in positive psychology.
Forgiveness is going back to a place of equality. The victim holds power over the offender. Sometimes, we see a hint of delight when the victim says, "Ha! I have one year to hold this offense over you."
While we may find a sense of justification that forgiveness is ours to give or not, still unforgiveness is too high a price to pay. To be in a victim position and think, "You made me feel this way. It's your fault I am this way. No one should blame me for feeling this way," is unhealthy.
The one who holds a burning coal to his chest cannot escape getting burned by it.
Letting go means surrendering this dominant role; a stepping down from the powerful position of victim to allow equality again. In addition, letting go is making a promise to yourself that you'll stop dwelling/replaying/ruminating/perseverating on the injustice.
If letting go feels impossible, it's probably because three key prerequisites weren't sufficiently completed. These are:
Acknowledging HOW I feel. It’s to express the emotion (if possible to the offender, to an empty chair, in a letter, or shouting at the sky in a secluded place).
Understanding WHY the offense was done. It’s to understand what happened.
Re-establishing safety. It’s how you know it won’t happen again, and from there you’re able to protect yourself.
You can go through this process without necessarily following the 1-2-3 sequence. Once you have satisfied these three steps, that’s when the “letting go” bit comes in.
What’s in it for me?
It is the forgiver who benefits more than the person being forgiven. Those who can forgive someone that caused them pain may experience significant results from doing so. Studies have shown that unwillingness or inability to forgive can have a negative impact on one’s well-being and mental health—often contributing to issues such as anxiety and depression. The benefits of forgiveness to the forgiver can be great, which can include stronger relationships, increased happiness, and better health.
People who are more forgiving have proven to be happier and less likely to experience negative health effects of stress. They are often able to repair damaged relationships with friends/partners, resolve conflicts more easily, and have more positive feelings toward people in general. Studies show that those who hold grudges may be more likely to have compromised immune system. So those able to forgive are more resistant to illness than those who hold grudges.
Forgiveness can also help rebuild self-esteem. 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 psychological, social and biological. Whether it’s a major grievance or minor slight, learning to forgive the offender can significantly improve both psychological well-being and physical health.
It pays off in the end
It is not easy to forgive. Some people find it harder to do than others—often depending on the depth or impact of the offense. Unfortunately, many people give up too soon and conclude that they’re not just forgiving. In spite of the proven benefits of moving on and letting go, forgiveness can be a hard concept for some to embrace. While resurgence of unforgiving feelings is normal, we should keep trying.
Why it's important to forgive?
It frees up a lot of heart- and headspace so that you can function better. You’re happier, less stressed, and a lot freer from negativity. The one offended can actually benefit from it.
Without our deserving it, we all experience injustices. The pain is unfair. The wrongdoer is unfair. But with forgiveness, we find a place for healing.
If you need help learning forgiveness, hypnotherapy is a good solution. Talk to Jarvis Hypnotherapy about how we can help build self-esteem through forgiveness - of yourself and others.