These are troubled times. We are all human beings living in relationships with other imperfect humans. As a result, someone has done something that hurt, disrespected, or put each of us at a disadvantage. And, because our brains are hard-wired to hold on to negative materials rather than the positive, we are likely to have a treasure troll of fear, anger, confusion, sadness, and hate stored in our memory and in our bodies. You may think you are totally justified for the hate you hold toward the person or situation. I say; think again.
Scientists have studied the health benefits of forgiveness. Their studies found that there are serious mental, emotional and physical disadvantages for having an unforgiving heart. In some studies, forgiveness is linked to a lessening of chronic back pain and depression. Other studies found forgiveness reduces levels of stress hormones which cause anxiety and other forms of dis-ease.
So, what is forgiveness? Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness or has ask for it. According to Mother Theresa, “There is nothing so bad that cannot be forgiven.”
However, forgiveness doesn’t require you to gloss over or deny the seriousness of the offense or to act as if nothing has happened. It doesn’t require you to forget, or continue or recommit yourself to the relationship but it involves accepting the promise that the future can be more than dwelling on memories of past injury. It doesn’t depend on whether the person who did you wrong apologizes, wants you back, or promises to change his or her ways. That’s a different decision for you to make.
If another person's poor behavior were the primary determinant for your healing then the unkind and selfish people in your life would retain power over you indefinitely.
On a personal level, as long as you hold on to the hurts, the perpetrators is in control of many aspects of your life. The hurts gets what Psychologists call generalized-meaning it spreads to other people and situation such as those who look, act, share gender, ethnicity, age and other characteristics as the perpetrator. Before long, you’ll have suspicions and negative attributions for folks you haven’t even met. This makes your world a very difficult place.
Constantly reliving your wounded feelings gives the person who caused you pain power over you. If you are at war with others you cannot be at peace with yourself. According to Marianne Williamson “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiving will set you free. Non-forgiveness keeps you in the struggle. Being willing to forgive can bring a sense of peace and well-being. It lifts anxiety and delivers you from depression. It can enhance your self-esteem and give you hope. Forgiveness is an act where you let go of the painful feelings and memories and change you from prisoners of the past to liberated a person at peace with your heart. Forgiveness is the experience of finding peace inside and can neither be compelled nor stopped by another. When we forgive, we do it for ourselves, not for the other person. It takes much more courage, strength of character, and inner conviction to forgive than it does to hang on to hold on to your agony.
So if you missed the International Day of Forgiveness designated by the World Forgiveness Alliance (WFA)create your own day to forgive.
What’s A Person To Do?
1. Free yourself. My favorite way to do it is to pick a day sometime in the future. Approach the day with the intent of letting go of the pain. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Bring the painful experience into your mind. Hold it a moment, then let it go. Just as you would set a bird free to the wild, lift your arms, open your hands and heart and let it go. Sit a while and enjoy the lightness you feel as a result. This may sound weird, but it works. I’ve done it many times.
2. Buck up and become encouraged. It takes much more courage, strength of character, and inner conviction to forgive than it does to hang on to your hurts.
3. Remember, ff you are at war with others you cannot be at peace with yourself. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself and allows you to love again. After forgiveness, comes peace and love.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives in Tunica and writes with the Tunica Chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books she has written.