Everyone has suffered some sort of emotional hurt through the words or actions of another. Experiencing this hurt is completely natural, but sometimes the hurt lingers for a long time. This interferes with our day to day life, whether we realize it or not. We may notice that there is an undercurrent in our life that makes it harder to be happy. Relationships may become strained for no apparent reason, and if we can’t don’t recognize the cause of the hurt, let go and move on, it can ruin relationships.
It’s important to recognize the source of your discomfort, acknowledge the emotions that have been provoked, and move on. You may be saying that sounds easy enough, but how, specifically, do you do that?
Here’s the harsh reality – the only way to move on is to forgive. You may be thinking that forgiving is too hard, but so is being alone. Think about this statement I saw recently, Someone that can never forgive is someone destined to be alone.” That’s a scary thought.
Forgiveness will profoundly change your life. It’s not always easy, but it’s a skill that can be learned. It just takes a change of mindset, practice, and compassion for yourself as you get the hang of it.
Here are some ideas as a starting point –
Think about all the advantages of letting go of your hurt. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some general advantages of forgiveness:
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
On a personal level, take some time to sit down and make a list of what you would gain by forgiving what has happened to you. Think about how free you would feel. How will forgiving affect the relationship you have with that person?
In that same Mayo Clinic article, there are some definite disadvantages when we fail to forgive.
- You are inclined to bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
- You may become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
- People who fail to forgive often become depressed or anxious
- You may feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
- You will lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others
So let’s get personal again. When you think about the hurt you are feeling, make a new list. This time write about the disadvantages of maintaining your negative feelings. What toll is it taking on you and the people around you? How does it affect your children if you can’t forgive your wife, parents, or whomever? Is it going to solve anything by continuing down the path you’re currently on?
When you are learning to forgive, you have to consciously make a commitment. Commit to letting go. It’s difficult to accomplish anything without setting the intention of doing so. For example, most people don’t miraculously lose fifty pounds or start saving an extra hundred dollars every month. They have to think about it first, and set the plan in their mind. Anything positive normally starts with an intention. So first commit to finding a way to forgive, do it, and move on.
When you choose to forgive you are exercising your freedom. Understand that you have a choice. We are intelligent, thoughtful creatures. We don’t have to simply react to things. You have a choice about how you perceive things and the actions you take afterwards. You can also change your mind and choose something different after your initial reaction. You can choose. You are in charge of your thoughts and your actions. Don’t give up your freedom!
Try to understand what was going on for the other person at the time. Be empathetic. Our initial reaction may be to just assume that the other person is just a bad person, but you know that is not true. The person may have been flat out of line, but maybe there is more to it than that. What else do they have going on in their lives? Has something happened in their past that caused them to behave the way that they did? Try to see things from their perspective. You might be surprised what you find.
Consider your part in it. Did you contribute to the issue in some way? Did you set off a trigger, by saying something that was perceived as an attack? Realizing your part in the matter can help you understand their motivation. Also, it’s important to find forgiveness for yourself, as well, if you regret anything that you did or said.
Remember we are living in the present, not yesterday and not tomorrow – we are living in today. Focus on the here and now. Don’t let being focused on the past rob you of the joys of today. Don’t spend time worrying about the future – it’s not here right now. Make every effort to focus on the here and now. Be present.
Now that you have been able to forgive and let go, it’s time to move on. Forgive the person and you’ll immediately feel better. We’re at our best when we act with compassion. We feel great, too, when compassion and forgiveness are automatically part of our lives. Forgiveness is something that you largely do for yourself.
Forgiving and forgetting is a skill that requires work to become good at it. But be smart. If someone took advantage of you, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful to prevent it from happening again. You have the power to forgive, let go, and love from a distance. Sometimes loving from a distance is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and also for the other person.
Forgiveness is not always easy, but it is always the right thing to do.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.
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