Forgiveness is a Decision to Heal.

Ahh... the holidays.

Along with the holidays, come the family and social gatherings. For some people, these gatherings are fun, joyful events that they are very much looking forward to attending. For others, it is a dreaded event. If it is something that you dread, think about why you feel that way. Is it because of an old hurt inflicted by someone?  

I have heard many stories where family members are not speaking to each other and sometimes it is because of things that happened years ago! Some people will even put demands on the host and refuse to come if the other person is attending. Or ask the host to make sure that the person is seated on the opposite side of the room to minimize their chances of having to speak to each other.

Holding a grudge is a heavy weight to carry. Maybe it is time to consider forgiving that person.

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When someone hurts you in some way, you may be angry, hold resentment and may even think of ways to seek revenge for what he or she did. Being upset and angry at someone for something that they did to you does not affect them in anyway. The upset and anger only distresses you. Holding onto angry feelings can cause both emotional and physical suffering.

This is not to suggest that a person continually takes and accepts the ill behavior of another. This type of person is probably not one you want to spend time with anyway. 

Holding onto grudges and old anger can keep you thinking about the past and prevent you from fully enjoying life in the present moment. The mind-body connection is strong. Dwelling on the hurt and being in a chronic state of anger can have damaging effects on you. It can create physical dis-ease in the body - high blood pressure, anxiety, digestive problems, headaches, disrupted sleep, as well as other symptoms including a change in heart rate and the immune system.

You may feel that if you forgive the other person, you are letting them get away with something.  Forgiveness is not about that. It is not even about forgetting that the event happened. Forgiveness is a way for you to let go of the hurt and anger so that you can feel peace and heal. 

If it was a deep or traumatic hurt, you may need the help of a professional to release the anger around it so that you can forgive.

Forgiveness - It’s for you, not them.

There have been news stories in the past several years about horrible tragedies that should not have ever happened and how the victim’s families forgave the aggressor. One mother, after forgiving her son’s killer said she felt like she was set free. These people forgave to release their own suffering. An attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II left him shot and wounded. After the Pope was released from the hospital, he went to the prison and forgave his attacker. These people forgave for their own healing, knowing that holding the anger would sabotage their well-being.

Forgiving can be a hard thing to do and it takes strength and courage.

It is not easy to forgive. Some people don't even know how to forgive. I don’t think there is an exact template for forgiving. If you do make the decision to forgive someone, here are some suggestions.

In order to forgive, it is important to take some time to fully recognize your feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment. Think about how the action affected you. Then, consider if there was some positive as a result. This may sound odd that there could possibly even be a positive. Maybe you learned something about yourself or experienced growth in some way.

You can forgive someone in several ways. You can verbally say the words to the person, although you don’t actually have to. You can write a letter and send it. Or you can choose not send it. You can also forgive them in your heart.

If you prefer to have a conversation with the person, you’ll probably want to know the reason for their actions. You may not understand their reasoning. But their explanation might be helpful. Sometimes it is even helpful to try to really see the situation from their point of view and maybe reach a point of understanding and empathy. 

Forgiving releases you from the past hurt and allows a sense of peace for yourself.

For more information about anger treatment, click here.

About the author: Tish Schuman, LPC, CMH, NCC, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Hypnotherapist is the owner of Calm Pathways Counseling located in Mt. Laurel, NJ. Using an innovative approach which includes Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, she has helped many people to get relief from anxiety and related issues and find joy and calm in their lives. Click below to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.