Forgiveness is difficult. Why is so hard to forgive? Part of the reason is that it is hard to forget. Research demonstrates that we tend to remember events and experiences to which we have a strong emotional reaction, whether it be positive or negative. Simply put, we remember situations that are emotionally impactful, where our emotions are aroused.
BUT, we do have the power to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. It takes energy, effort, and time, but it is possible. In fact, in many situations, forgiveness is the very thing that heals us from pain and helps us move on. We are not able to control others’ behavior, but we can control our own actions and reactions.
The first step is understanding and believing that forgiveness is even possible. The next step involves an intention to forgive. Here are some points to consider:
- Consider your own anger. It is difficult to make progress toward forgiveness if your level of anger is high. Take steps to address your anger. This could involve deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxations exercises, talking to a trusted friend, writing your feelings, or consulting a professional.
- Consider the other person’s situation. Cultivate empathy. While there may be no excuse for the other person’s behavior, understanding the other person’s situation may help in achieving your goal of forgiveness. As the saying goes, hurt (emotionally wounded) people hurt people. How has that person been hurt? Not necessarily by you, but how has that person been hurt?
- Keep in mind that it is truly in your best interest to forgive. So if you are finding it hard to forgive for the other person’s benefit, remember that it is truly for YOUR benefit. Holding on to anger and resentment takes a toll on your psychological and physical well-being.
- Forgiveness does not mean accepting or condoning the behavior that hurt you. It is simply making a decision to not let it continue to affect you.
- Put your mental and emotional energy toward reaching your goals in positive ways. Stop re-playing the hurt in your mind and replace it with positive ways of coping with the situation to achieve your desired outcome.
- Part of achieving your positive outcome is focusing on the positive around you. Make a conscious effort to look for compassion, kindness, love, and beauty in other people and your environment.
- Pay attention to your benefits of forgiveness. Notice and reductions in anger, stress, and anxiety. Celebrate the increases in positive mood as well as an increase in life satisfaction and fulfillment.
Now go back and take a look at all these steps and consider forgiving yourself. What is it about yourself from your past that you are having trouble letting go of, that steals your joy? It is time to give yourself the gift of forgiveness.
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