Life is full of obstacles, disappointments and lessons. No matter how hurt you may be, forgiveness is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Here are 10 reasons why forgiveness is important and 10 tips for how you can forgive others.
One thing we can all relate to is being hurt, one way or another. It could be intentional, unintentional, by someone we trust or just because of circumstance. No matter the reason, forgiveness is one of the only things you can do for yourself to fully move on and let go.
Some wounds last a long time and take immense work to heal from. It is very easy for someone to hold onto anger, resentment and even thoughts of revenge than it is to embrace forgiveness. Those feelings of bitterness have a huge toll on our overall wellbeing. Sometimes we have to move on for ourselves, even if an apology or amends wasn’t extended.
What Is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is different for everyone. For some it is a way to move on, escape from self pity or even just a coping mechanism. Either way, it involves the decision to let go of those negative and harmful feelings. The important thing to acknowledge is that the hurt may never go away. However, you are actively making the effort to free yourself from toxic and bitter ways of thinking.
The act of forgiveness leads to understanding, empathy and compassion. It isn’t saying you are ok with what happened or how you were treated. It is a way for you to bring peace into your own life and hope that the person who hurt you can become better.
10 Reasons Why Forgiveness Is Important?
There are many reasons why forgiveness is important. It is a beneficial way to let go, move on and grow. Not only can you learn from it, it will guide you into become a more compassionate and empathetic person. Choosing to forgive allows more room for peace, health and positivity.
1. Forgiving Someone Else Means Forgiving Yourself
It might be a little cliché, but clichés are there for a reason! Forgiving others will allow you to forgive yourself. Holding onto resentment only hurts you. It’s like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick. You have no control over what other people do or say, you can only control yourself. Forgiving yourself lets the hurt and anger leave so the healing can enter. You are taking action to correct your life and improve your well-being.
2. No More Playing Victim
Playing victim happens in many ways and is meant to justify abuse or bad behavior to manipulate, cope, diffuse responsibility or seek attention. How can you tell someone or yourself is playing victim?
- Self-pity or feeling sorry for themselves without acknowledging any solution to the problem.
- Manipulation – acting powerless to gain attention, support or compassion. Additionally, making you/someone else feel guilty for anything you’ve ever done to them.
- Emotional vampires – Clinging to other people to help them cope, refusing to take responsibility, trauma dumping, codependence.
- Trust issues – Irrationally doesn’t trust people because of low confidence and projecting their emotions onto others.
- Comparing themselves to others because of low self-esteem, thinking they have a more difficult life than anyone else.
Breaking the habit of playing victim will open your mind and allow in forgiveness, confidence and self-awareness. You don’t have to forget in order to forgive, but you have to forgive in order to move on. Not being a victim means you are no longer controlled by negativity.
3. Let Go Of Grudges
Being betrayed by someone you love or trust is brutal, painful and traumatic. However, holding onto a grudge is just as bad. It leads to dwelling on a situation that has came, went and is no longer apart of you. If you continue to hold onto the past, no matter how hurtful, you are letting yourself be swallowed by negativity.
Holding onto a grudge leads to an overall deterioration of mental and physical health. It can make you depressed, anxious, at odds with yourself and even have major affects on your personal life.
4. Free Yourself From Anger & Bitterness
Forgiving gives you power. The energy you have spent being angry or resentful at someone only takes from you. It does not add anything of value to your life, which is why forgiving is freeing.
5. Better & More Understanding Relationships
Studies show that forgiveness leads to better, more understanding and joyful relationships. People who are unconditionally forgiving can even live longer! Being able to forgive is a huge part in any relationship. No one is perfect and people mess up. Throughout our lives we will be disappointed, this practice is about gaining resilience and understanding. This makes those disappointments much more bearable.
We have to remember that at the end of the day the people in our lives are not mind readers. They are human and capable of making mistakes. When we forget this, we set ourselves up for failure. We all have different points of view and being able to forgive allows us to broaden our perspective.
6. Regain Your Personal Power
Just incase you missed it, holding onto a grudge or resentment will control you. It’ll drain you and take away from your life. Not only will it trigger low self-esteem, it’ll affect everyone around you. It gives the person who or situation that hurt us all of our power. Forgiving someone breaks that chain, sets you free and enables you to become a better person.
7. Important For Mental, Physical & Spiritual Health
Our bodies respond to negativity. It triggers depression, anxiety and even affects the immune system. Resentment can become addicting and actually intoxicate the body. Studies show that when you are angry, bitter or resentful all the time, you will feel sick more often. A study at Harvard University found that resentment can lead to a dip in antibodies which are the bodies defense against infections.
8. Recognize The Pain In Others
The majority of us aren’t born wanting to hurt or disappoint others. However, it still happens all the time. Our experience mold us as we grow, if we take the time to reflect on our experiences we can explain our behaviors. Using forgiveness will allow you to see how someone else’s life may have led them to behaving in hurtful ways. It is all about perception. Everyone is coping with different things, in different ways.
9. Forgiveness Can Improve Sleep Quality and Fatigue
Due to its ability to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and resentment, choosing to forgive can also improve sleep quality. These emotional responses from resentment can literally keep us up at night. Deliberately letting go of negative emotions especially when linked to forgiveness has major benefits.
10. Makes Rooms For Happiness
Rid yourself of the burden of bitterness, anger and resentment that come from holding onto grudges. Letting go of these feelings will make room for all the good things you may need more of. Additionally, you may even begin to see the good in the person who did you wrong. This doesn’t mean you will forget, but you could be able to move on and even rebuild a new relationship. You will become so confident and understanding that you will no longer need to hold onto negativity that doesn’t serve you.
How to practice Forgivness – 10 Tips
Now that we know why forgiving others is so important, we have to learn how to do it.
1. Process & Reflect
The best way to process and reflect is with a journal. It is basically a free therapist where you can dump all your baggage with no repercussions. Instead of unloading to friends or family who may not be mentally available for your trauma, use your journal. Let the negativity explode onto the pages so it gets out of your system. It is important to do this to your journal and not someone else, no matter how close you are. Your journal is a judgement free zone that can take what you throw and not be affected. Grieve, feel hurt, get mad and let it out, just don’t hold onto it.
Forgiving others begins and ends with you. You may never get an apology or amends, and that is ok. There is no need to contact or reach out to someone and demand an apology. You probably won’t get it and you may set yourself up for even more disappointment.
2. Write A Resentment List
A resentment list requires you to write down the people or events you are holding onto that trigger negative responses. Write the name/situation, the cause and how it affects you. Your list can look like this:
- Jenna from high school: Cause – bullied me. Affects my – self-esteem, security and personal relationships.
- David: Cause – abusive boyfriend, cheated on me. Affects my – self-esteem, security, personal and romantic relationships
- Johnny: Cause – Manager who fired me, alcoholic, bully, rude comments. Affects my – self-esteem, security and professional relationships.
These are just examples, but doing this can help you with the processing and reflecting that comes with forgiving people. Feel free to create your list in a different, more specific way. It will allow you to embrace your feelings, let go of the past and move on.
3. Define What Forgiveness Is To You
It is different for everyone, so figure out what it means to you. This allows you to set the terms you need in order to move on. The formal definition is the deliberate choice to let go of vengeance and harboring resentment toward someone who wronged you. You define what forgiveness is to you, you can either continue with a relationship or let go.
4. Start Small
If you are struggling with many different situations or people in which you need to forgive, start small. Get accustomed to the forgiving practice by making the effort to forgive everyday. Did someone cut you off on the way to work? Maybe, someone bumped into you. Don’t let those feelings well up inside, say it out loud “I forgive you.” Practice compassion instead of getting angry.
5. Write a Letter
You may never get the apology or amends your looking for, even if you go searching. Writing a letter will help you express all the hurt, resentment and struggle you’ve held onto. A letter is one-sided, you can share your experience without being interrupted or disagreed with. Say what you need to say. Even if you don’t send it, this can be hugely beneficial for those struggling with toxic friends, family or partners. You can write it for your own benefit until your ready to reach out. Even send it to a fake address or have someone deliver it for you.
6. Support Groups Or Programs
Sharing your feelings is important. However, it is important you share them with the right people. Sometimes we lean on our friends, family and partners so much that they can’t stand up straight. Unloading on people too often or too aggressively can become a very heavy burden for the recipient of those feelings. Support groups come in handy because you can share, listen and learn all in one. These are people you may have never met otherwise. They are looking for an outlet and solution just like you. Check out programs like Nine Steps To Forgiveness, REACH program or 20-step Forgiveness Model.
7. Make Emotional & Mental Health a Priority
Once you are able to forgive a little more regularly, make sure you take care of your emotional and mental health. Continue the work to grow, be confident and strengthen your compassion towards others. Eat healthy foods, get enough exercise and focus on your wellbeing. You have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others. Same goes for mental health, in order to help and be a better person, you have to take care of yourself.
8. Develop & Set Boundaries
When someone hurts you, especially a family member or partner, setting boundaries is important. This doesn’t mean blaming or disowning anyone but instead simply saying “What you just said/did is not okay.” Even telling someone you need a break because you feel exhausted is a way to set a boundary. This is a simple but effective way to get your needs met. Additionally, it sends a message that what the other person did, is not appropriate behavior.
9. Learn Your Triggers
Keep an eye on what triggers your stress, anxiety or anger. If certain topics, places or people trigger you, it might be best to avoid them. This plays into setting boundaries as well. If someone brings something up, just say I don’t feel comfortable talking about this. You can process and work through what you need to do on your own time. It is ok to say no in order to protect yourself from getting worked up.
10. Practice Gratitude
Lastly, practicing gratitude is a great way to learn how to forgive others and especially yourself. Write down everything you are thankful for and use positive affirmations. This will help you “fake it till you feel it”. Once you say thanks and use good mantras everyday, you’ll be able to forgive, move on and become the best version of yourself.
Forgiveness Bottom Line
Life is short and holding onto resentment, anger or bitterness is a sure fire way to make the time fly quickly. Allow yourself to move on in order to be healthy, happy and secure. It is easier said than done, but once you start, it becomes effortless.
It is important to forgive because it makes room for positivity and growth. Additionally, it is ok to set boundaries, take breaks and say no. Don’t trauma dump on your friends or family because it only transfers the negative energy to other people. Use a journal, write a resentment list or a letter and allow yourself to grieve, process and reflect. Most importantly, forgive yourself! You only have one life and you’re stuck with yourself. Make sure you’re giving yourself the opportunity to become the best version of yourself.