Forgiveness: Why do it?

Here’s the truth: relationships inevitably involve hurt.  Sometimes we deliberately hurt one another, but most of the time we do it unconsciously as a result of our own unhealed wounds.  So what do we do when we’ve been hurt,  perhaps badly, by a partner or anyone else for that matter?  Okay, take a breath.  Ready?  We forgive.

What?  Forgive my louse of a husband who had a year-long affair with his secretary then left me and our kids?  Forgive my bitchy ex-wife who constantly nagged and criticized me?  Yes.  Forgive them.  No matter what the offense, and I realize some of them are horrendous, you need to forgive, and here’s why: holding onto bitterness, hurt and rage hurts YOU.  You may think you’re punishing the other person, but you’re really punishing YOU.

Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Anger, bitterness, resentment inside your body and mind will make you sick–physically, emotionally, spiritually.  How do you feel when you go over and over what he or she did to you?  Is it a pleasant sensation in your body? Is your mind at peace?   Of course not.  Your body feels awful and your mind is anything but at peace.  And is this what you want to lug around inside of you?  Is this angry, vindictive, victimized person really who you are or who you want to be? Do you really want to give the person who hurt you the power to continue making you feel miserable, because that’s what you’re doing when you hold onto this stuff.  And if you need another reason to forgive here it is: forgive because you need to be forgiven.  How many of you have never hurt anyone?  Wouldn’t you like to be forgiven for what you have done?

Forgiveness does not mean that you weren’t hurt or that you condone the abusive behavior.  Of course you were hurt or this wouldn’t even be an issue.  It also doesn’t mean that you want to continue the relationship.  Forgiveness is about YOU…you doing your own internal work so that you can feel good again and move forward in your life.  The other person doesn’t even have to know about it.

So how do you forgive?  First, you make the decision that you want to forgive, even if you can’t see how you’re ever going to do it.  You understand that forgiveness is a journey…a process that happens over time.  Then you grieve by deeply feeling the anger, pain and trauma of the original hurt.  You do what you have to do to feel it…cry, yell, stomp around, hit pillows…whatever it takes.  Then you go about the process of letting go.  Letting go means focusing on the present; not dwelling in the past.  It could mean meditating–breathing in forgiveness, breathing out hatred.  Or creating an affirmation around forgiveness and using it as a mantra.  You might gain inspiration from others who have forgiven under appalling circumstances.  In whatever way you can, make peace with “what is,” and stop endlessly going over what was.  Focus on gratitude.  No matter what you’re going through, there are always things to be grateful for, and when you are grateful, you can’t be bitter.

It has been shown that through forgiveness you become less anxious and depressed.  You lower your blood pressure and have more hope and higher self-esteem.  You become more flexible, less black and white in your expectations of yourself, other people and life.  Well worth the effort, don’t you think?  I would love to hear your stories about either forgiving or not forgiving and what happened as a result of what you did.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, to learn how I forgave my husband for his affair, and for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, and buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (both print and Kindle) as well as Barnes and Noble.

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