The definition of forgiveness from google: “A conscious and deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.”

It’s taken me many years to understand forgiveness. I never understood that I was forgiving someone for my own benefit. I would think that someone didn’t deserve my forgiveness and hold on to things. I felt like if I held on to it that it would protect me from that person and from having similar things happen to me. Did you hear what I just said? “Happen to me.” That sounds like such a victim mentality. I don’t like that at all. I think forgiveness has made me feel stronger and less victimized.

I learned that when I didn’t forgive people that I was carrying around anger with me. I like to feel at peace and happy. I am uncomfortable feeling angry. I want us to be able to feel the whole range of feelings, but I also don’t want to see any of us get stuck in the anger. That is not a good place to feel stuck.

Why do we forgive?

  • Brings us peace.
  • Brings us understanding.
  • Brings us empathy and compassion.
  • Brings us back to a relationship with someone (or a better relationship) but this part is not necessary. The choice is yours.
  • Helps you to move on.
  • Removes the burden you carry.
  • Let’s us model this to our children.
  • Brings health benefits.
  • Can decrease anxiety and depression.
  • Increases happiness.
  • Can lead to decreases in negative behaviors such as emotional eating, drinking, smoking, drugs.
  • Makes us feel empowered and stronger.

Carrying the burden of anger, hostility and resentment is only damaging you. Your mental and physical health do not benefit from holding on to something. You may think that you are punishing the other person when in fact they may not even care. When we hold on to anything we are also giving that person a lot of power over our lives. Do you want this person to take up your mental energy? I know I only have so much energy in the day, and I would like to expend my energy on people who I think truly deserve it.

I could give you a ton of reasons why we forgive. The next question is: How do we forgive?

  • Forgive FOR YOU and all the benefits it brings above. If you understand the benefits, then you are more likely to want to forgive.
  • Finding the meaning – what did the event in your life give to you? Events in my life like dealing with a crappy boyfriend made me stronger, made me appreciate my husband and made me a better wife. I don’t know if I would have ever appreciated Seth the way I do if I hadn’t dealt with so much from an ex-boyfriend. I guarantee you can find some good that came from an event in your life. A friend being mean to me – taught me about what a good friend is. Made me choosier about my friends. Made me a better friend. Try it. What benefits came from the event? My friend’s husband cheated on her. She is now with an amazing man. Good came from the negative event in her life.
  • Finding the empathy and compassion is helpful in being able to forgive. Example – I know about my friend’s childhood. I know how she struggled. I know the mental health issues she suffers from. I understand and I have compassion and empathy for her. It made it very easy to forgive her. I don’t want to be friend’s with her but I forgive her. My husband was bullied as a kid. I told him we don’t know what this kid’s home life was like. Where was this behavior coming from? Was this kid being bullied at home or by someone else? Was this kid’s parent abusive? There could be so many reasons for the behavior. The more we understand and ask questions the more able we are to release things and forgive. My husband actually connected with his bully recently and he apologized to Seth. You can read about it in this blog: The Bully Apologized. You won’t always get an apology. You don’t need an apology to forgive.
  • Practice forgiving. Make small efforts every day. Things become easier the more we practice. Squats become easier the more often I do them. Walking becomes easier the more that I walk. Meditation becomes easier the more that I practice it daily. Practice forgiving every day.
  • It all starts with being able to forgive yourself. If you have trouble forgiving others, then I can guess that you probably have trouble forgiving yourself. I lost my cool with my daughter and I try so hard to remain calm. I used to beat myself up for doing that. I realized that I forgave myself quicker and moved on. I know that I am human. I know that I will continue to make mistakes. I know that perfect doesn’t exist. I guarantee you that if you start with yourself that it will ooze out to others too. I don’t expect perfection from myself anymore and that has helped me to not expect perfection from others.

How did I do? Did I convince you that it is important to let go and forgive? Do you see what’s in it for you? Do you see that forgiveness is not about the other person? I hope you will make an effort to move in the direction of forgiveness. I know it isn’t easy. I also know that you can do it. Start small and work on it every day. If you are struggling, don’t ever be afraid to reach out for professional help from a therapist. Reaching out for help is a strength. Forgiving is a strength. I hope that you will start today.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R

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