Having a little more forgiveness in your heart can bring you inner peace and improve your relationships. But it’s all about getting the balance right.
Take our quiz to discover how forgiving you really are and then read on for tips on how to be more forgiving to yourself and others.
Why do we find it so hard to forgive others?
Your tendency to dwell or let go depends on how your personal process of forgiving unfolds. Some people can make peace with the past in an instant, while others get so caught up in the pain that they struggle to move on for a long time – even a lifetime.
Dealing with life’s difficulties can be tough when you’re searching for the will to forgive. Whether the hurt happened a moment or a decade ago, intentional or not, if someone has wronged you, it’s normal to feel heavy-hearted and angry. It can be a struggle to take your next step in the situation.
If the culprit was you, shame and blame add another dimension of complexity to the forgiveness mix. Your mind thrashes between forgiving, forgetting, avoiding it completely and going over every detail a thousand times.
What are the physical and mental health benefits of forgiveness?
The impact of conflict can run deep, to the point where it changes the state of your mental and physical health. As well as hijacking your mind, anger resides in your body – increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as compromising your immune system’s ability to function at its best.
Harbouring long-term negativity puts your physiology under pressure, your mental health at risk and can cause way more damage than the original misdemeanour did.
Thankfully, your ability to pardon can work wonders for your wellbeing. Scientists have found that practicing forgiveness strengthens your connection to those around you, reduces your stress and anger from harmful levels, and boosts your ability to feel more optimistic and satisfied with your life as a whole.
Why forgiveness can set you free
Forgiveness takes great strength. It’s about having the courage to accept, then let go of what happened. Not condoning it, yet no longer wishing it could have been different somehow. Gently moving out of the place in the past where you’re stuck, struggling, hurting, angry.
Going beyond retaliation or justice-seeking, to a more peaceful place. It’s about respecting yourself, nurturing your needs and consciously choosing to treat yourself kindly in the present. By letting go, you’re actively making space to let more freedom in.
Holding a grudge towards others, or yourself, can hurt a great deal and significantly hold you back. Conversely, making the courageous choice to let go can finally release you from the clutches of the past.
What are the four steps of forgiveness?
Use empathy as a way of practising compassion in difficult situations, or at times you feel utterly wronged. Listen deeply to how the other person is feeling, try to see things from their perspective and do your best to understand. You may realise you have made someone else feel that way in the past, too. Nobody’s perfect, right?
Practice self-compassion as you support yourself to let go. What’s done is done and ruminating on the matter is keeping you stuck in that moment, which you wouldn’t recommend a friend should do.
Instead, gently ask yourself: ‘What do I need right now to help me move forward?’ and take steps to meet your needs.
If you’re feeling overcome with resentment, take this opportunity to better understand yourself. Allow yourself to be with whatever it is you are feeling, without blaming others, or yourself, for what arises.
Sit with it as you let it unfold and eventually melt away, soothing yourself with the knowledge that it will pass in time, and ultimately you’re in control of how you feel, not the other way around.
Give loving-kindness (metta bhavana) meditation a try. It will help to boost your wellbeing and strengthen your compassion ahead of time – empowering you to choose love and acceptance more easily.
By working on your inner peace, you’ll find it much easier to stay balanced in potentially stressful situations involving other people.
Photos by Court Prather, Priscilla du Preez and Omar Lopez on Unsplash.