Forgiving is never easy, and forgetting is even harder. Yet a lack of forgiveness can torpedo a relationship, drain your energy, and increase your tendency to build unhealthy emotional walls around yourself. True forgiveness soothes the mind and soul, builds bridges, and helps you move forward in an emotionally healthy way. Many people have a somewhat skewed idea of forgiveness, so here are seven proven facts.
- Forgiveness Is Good for You
Research shows that holding a grudge causes an increase in the stress hormone known as cortisol. Over time, your blood pressure can go up and your heart can experience increased strain. Unresolved relationship issues can also cause ongoing mental anguish, leading to an increased risk for anxiety and depression, and making it more difficult to build healthy new relationships.
- Forgiveness Is Not the Same as Approval
Some people are reluctant to forgive because they believe that doing so is a sign that they approve of the other person’s behavior. However, this simply is not true. If you approved of the behavior, then there would be nothing to forgive.
Instead, forgiveness means acknowledging that the other person behaved badly, but that behavior was outside of your control. It releases you from reliving the hurts over and over again, and places accountability for the behavior back on the person who performed it.
- Lack of Forgiveness Damages Trust
If you plan to continue a relationship with the person who wronged you, forgiveness is absolutely essential to moving forward. Continuing to nurse a grudge prevents you from fully trusting the other person, sowing seeds of discontent that can rapidly grow and spread. Over time, the person you have not forgiven may begin to distrust you as well, based on your unwillingness to let things go.
- Extenuating Circumstances Matter
When we are wronged, humans have an innate tendency to take it personally, believing that the other person intended to commit harm. Yet very few people set out to intentionally hurt others. Instead, the person’s actions were probably influenced by a long list of factors, from exhaustion to fear to childhood trauma.
Understanding that there were extenuating circumstances at play does not excuse the behavior, but it can make it easier to forgive. We all have our moments when the world seems to be crashing in, and everyone reacts badly to circumstances now and then. This realization can help you see the person in a more vulnerable and human way, and make it easier to forgive.
- Emotionality Makes Forgiveness Harder
If you are still caught up in the hurt feelings, anger, and sadness of the moment, it will be much harder to forgive. Focus on working through your own emotions and coming to a place of acceptance before you attempt to truly forgive.
- Forgiveness Is Internal and Does Not Need an Apology
A lot of people believe that forgiveness is not possible unless the other person apologizes. Yet this would mean that you could never forgive someone who has passed away or simply moved with no forwarding address. Fortunately, this is not the case.
Forgiveness is an internal process of letting go, of choosing not to let the old wound hurt you anymore. This can be done entirely without the other person’s involvement. Apologizing and stating forgiveness are ultimately social communication behaviors that help to ensure that both parties are on common ground, and are certainly important if the relationship will continue. However, if you do not have a current relationship with the other person, you can still forgive him or her on your own.
- Forgiving Yourself Is as Important as Forgiving Others
Many people are quick to forgive others, but very slow to forgive themselves. If you have a constantly running inner monologue that takes responsibility for things that happen but does not allow room for forgiveness, you can easily become anxious, depressed, and worn down. It is crucial to your mental health that you learn to accept yourself as a whole, flawed human being, and learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.
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Written by Lisa FritscherNEXT