Hanging on to memories of how we were wronged hurts us, not them
Whatever is weighing on your mind also weighs on your physical health.† Lack of forgiveness can lead to physical pain because of the stress involved.† Some of us have been abused, others mistreated, and for sure everyone hasnít treated you exactly as you wanted all your life.† You may feel guilty about something you did or didnít do. Getting rid of these emotional burdens requires forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an art. To truly forgive is to let go.† That means if someone happens to bring up what had been a sore subject for you, you no longer have an emotional trigger.† You can talk about it as if it had happened to someone else.
Fred Luskin, Ph.D. has been researching forgiveness for many years and has written two excellent books on the subject:† Forgive for Love and Forgive for Good.
According to Dr. Luskin, there are both mental and physical benefits to forgiveness.
- First, he says that when you donít forgive, you get stuck in the past.† So, psychologically speaking, it is comforting and freeing for people to realize they can cope with whatever upset them and caused them to harbor resentment.
- Second, he believes that when you start taking control of and responsibility for your emotions, you build character and become a stronger person.
- Finally, anger, depression, stress, and other negative emotions that come with holding grudges can have a huge impact on cardiovascular, neurological and overall physical health.
Nine Steps to Forgiveness, by Dr. Luskin
- Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK.† Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
- Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better.† Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
- Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action.† What you are after is to find peace.† Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
- Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years -ago.† Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
- At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
- Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you.† Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave.† Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
- Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.† Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
- Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge.† Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.† Forgiveness is about personal power.
- Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
Doesn’t forgiving someone mean you’re forgetting or condoning what happened?
According to the Mayo Clinic, absolutely not! Forgiving isn’t the same as forgetting what happened to you. The act that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life. But forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act.
For more on Mayo Clinicís advice, click here.
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