Before we do that, let’s spend a moment to think about what happens when we don’t forgive. Like most things in life, if not cleaned up and put away, our thoughts and memories can fester and tarnish. If we don’t deal with things that are bothering us – if we don’t practise forgiveness – the only person who suffers is ourself. We become bitter and self-absorbed, our issues become part of us and this can dampen any enjoyment and happiness we would otherwise feel.
Forgive for yourself, not for others
We may sometimes think that by forgiving another person’s actions we are actually letting them get away with bad behaviour. The truth is, forgiveness is only beneficial to one person – and that is you! When you forgive, you give yourself permission to move on from the events and actions that caused you pain. You free your mind from thinking about it and going over events in your mind. You find peace. Forgiveness provides closure.
Say ‘no’ to negative feelings
Sometimes you need to re-programme your mind to free yourself from negative feelings. Going over and over events in your mind is seldom productive so you need to find a way to process whatever it is that is stopping you from moving forward. There are a number of ways of doing this. The first is by sharing how you feel with the person who you believe has ‘wronged you’. Often once you have expressed something out loud, it allows your mind to free and you are able to move forward. If this is not possible, the next best thing is to write down how you feel in a letter. You don’t even need to share the letter, once written you can rip it up and burn it if you want - you will still have freed your mind from the burden and be able to move forward with your thinking.
Have a good deep look at yourself and answer truthfully: how is your life being affected by your inability to forgive? Has it stopped you from living the life you once had? Picture what your life could be like if you were able to process your feelings and forgive? Would you feel lighter, freer, happier, even? We can't change what has happened to us in the past, but what we can do is refuse to be burdened with feelings and emotions that weigh us down. When you make a conscious decision to forgive, you allow yourself to let go and that can only have a positive impact on your life, as well as those around you.
Remember, forgiveness is a process and it does take time. It is too easy to brush over events that have hurt us – file these feelings away and think that all is forgotten. However, it doesn’t do us any good. Although it is hard, we really need to take the time to work through our emotions. Only when we truly forgive others can we start to heal. We owe that to ourselves.
For more information on forgiveness - and how it helps us grow and move forward – read this article from Psychology Today.