Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
Is Forgiveness a Medical Issue?
Doctors have recognized that patients who refuse to forgive often stay sick. Studies have cited that 61% of all cancer patients struggle with forgiveness and there is a direct correlation between this and the ability to heal and the will to live. Unprocessed emotions such as fear and anger lead to a state of anxiety that depletes the body's ability to fight off cancer causing cells.
"Harboring these negative emotions, this anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety," Dr. Michael Barry said.
"Chronic anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body's foot soldier in the fight against cancer."
Forgiveness therapy is now being looked at as a way to help treat cancer. Working from the inside out creates change in every level of the being, while addressing the source of illnesses and imbalances.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships both with others and yourself
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Lowers the risk of alcohol and substance abuse
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
When someone you love and trust hurts you, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you're unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can't enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you're at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:
- Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time;
- Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you've reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well—being
- When you're ready, actively choose to forgive the person who's offended you;
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life As you let go of grudges, you'll no longer define your life by how you've been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
What if I'm the one who needs forgiveness?
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you've done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You're human, and you'll make mistakes. If you're truly sorry for something you've said or done, consider admitting it to those you've harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically ask for forgiveness—without making excuses. Remember, however, you can't force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect and choose to apply love like you were applying salve to a cut.