“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” -Buddha
Forgiveness is the act of pardoning an offender. Sometimes, that offender can even be ourselves, if we are really mad at ourselves for making a mistake. In Greek, the word for forgiveness means “to let go”. Forgiveness means letting go of a need for revenge and releasing negative and bitter thoughts or resentment. Forgiveness is a great gift we can give to ourselves.
Forgiving is not always easy and it is usually a process we go through. Being able to process your pain is important and can take work. You need to acknowledge the pain first and not gloss over it. You also need to find constructive ways to communicate about it and figure out ways to protect yourself from further harm. A very helpful way to try to think about the situation is to try to understand where the other person is coming from and try to look at them with compassion. Forgive yourself for the role you might have played in the issue as well.
If someone has been very hurtful to you, you might need to make a decision whether to continue a relationship with them or not. Sometimes, it may be time to distance yourself from relationships that have been repeatedly hurting you. If the person you resent is not in your life anymore, is unreachable, or has passed away, you can write them a letter in which you state how you feel and also forgive them. This process is just for you and it can be very cathartic.
Remember that when you forgive a person that has done a terrible thing, you are not excusing their actions. Forgiveness is just letting go of your resentment towards what they did. If you realize the person is really not to blame, then you can excuse them, but otherwise you can just forgive. When you forgive, you should also realize you are not condoning further hurt. Forgiveness also does not mean you are willing to reconcile with the wrongdoer. You may forgive them, but still choose to keep your distance peacefully.
Remember that forgiving can take quite a bit of time and processing, whether forgiving yourself or others. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t forgive someone who has done something to you right away. It may take weeks, months, or years. Stay open to the concept that eventually you will be able to forgive and let go of your pain over the situation.
Being able to forgive is a great skill and it is really for your own benefit. Research shows that when we are better at forgiveness we experience lower stress, tension, depression, anxiety, and perhaps most important, anger. Anger is toxic to our overall health, increasing risk for illnesses like heart disease. When we have trouble being able to forgive, we hold in anger, resentment, and bitterness that can harm us in multiple ways.