Forgiveness: The Positive Effects

Posted Aug 9, 2021

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Forgiveness is the process of letting go of hurt, resentment, sadness, anger, hate, a desire for retaliation and a whole host of negative feelings that are associated with hurtful behavior that has been directed at you, someone you care about, or humanity as a whole. Forgiveness is releasing the burden of past pain. The key point to remember about forgiveness is that it is something you do for yourself and for your own wellbeing.

What forgiveness is not

Forgiveness is not forgetting or denial of wrong action. As a matter of fact, the first step in forgiveness is to acknowledge the fact that you or someone you care about has been hurt by another person:

  • Forgiveness is not rationalizing or excusing misbehavior.
  • Forgiveness does not give permission for future misbehavior.
  • Forgiveness does not require that you continue to be involved with the person who hurt you. You can forgive and still understand that the pain of the other person may be so great that it will continue to leak onto those in the vicinity in the form of hurtful behavior. Self-protection or keeping a distance may be required.

The value of forgiveness

Nelson Mandela said, "Hating someone is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it." This quote introduces you to the importance of forgiveness in living a resilient and happy life. Forgiveness keeps you from poisoning yourself with anger, hate and resentment. There is substantial scientific research supporting the positive health effects of forgiveness. The process of forgiveness has been shown to result in reduced blood pressure and heart rate, less anxiety and a reduction in depression.

Beliefs interfering with forgiveness

Which of these statements describe your beliefs about forgiving someone who has hurt you?

  • The hurt was so great, how can I possibly forgive?
  • There are some things that can never be forgiven.
  • They don't deserve to be forgiven.
  • Why should I forgive? What they did was wrong.
  • They have to pay for what they did.
  • They'll suffer if I withhold forgiveness.
  • If I don't retaliate, they'll (I'll) think I'm weak.
  • Continuing to judge them makes me feel like I'm a better person than they are.
  • Why should I show compassion for them? They certainly didn't care about how I felt.

The key to forgiveness: compassion

Philo of Alexandria said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." This quote provides you with the key to forgiveness, which is compassion. Forgiveness is possible when you understand that when a person behaves badly, that behavior is the person's own suffering leaking into the world, onto you and onto other people in the form of negative behavior. W

hen people behave badly toward you, you can be certain that the behavior is not about you, but a reflection of their overall approach to life and the degree of their pain and unhappiness, no matter what they would like you to believe about their behavior. Meanness is pain in disguise.

Forgiveness takes effort

Mignon McLaughlin said, "What we forgive too freely doesn't stay forgiven." You must start slowly. Don't make a list of all of the hurt, anger and resentment you carry that is currently poisoning you. The most difficult step in practicing forgiveness is learning to see the pain behind another's misbehavior. This takes practice, as with any effort at developing new skills and habits. You will want to start slowly. The first step in learning forgiveness is to start with the practice of compassion, which, as said above, is the key to forgiveness. Part of compassion is to learn to see that everyone is swimming in the same soup—everyone is fighting a great battle.

Practice forgiveness

You will have ample opportunity to practice forgiveness—there is lots of pain leaking into the world, whether it be in the form of rudeness or thoughtlessness, or in the form of more significant misbehavior such as abuse and violence.

Here are some tips to begin practicing forgiveness:

  • Identify feelings you have toward other people that are poisoning you with hatred, resentment, hurt and the rest of the negative emotions that keep you stuck in the past and from which you need to heal. Forgiveness is about creating a new future free of this pain.
  • Pick one person and identify the hurtful behavior you'd like to forgive. Start small, with a minor misbehavior that you'd like to stop carrying around with you.
  • Remind yourself that other people's hurtful behavior is their pain (their "great battle") in disguise. If you can, try to understand what that pain is.
  • Determine whether the goal is simply forgiveness, or forgiveness and reconciliation (restoring the relationship). Remember that reconciliation requires more than forgiveness. It requires three things of the other person. Consider reconciliation to be your goal only if the following are true:
    • The individual acknowledges the misbehavior and apologizes. It's important to understand that an apology is not about past behavior; it's really a promise about future behavior. It's a promise not to do it again. Repeated apologies about the same behavior are nothing more than broken promises and don't need to be taken seriously.
    • The individual asks for forgiveness.
    • The individual does not repeat the behavior.
Source: Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of hurt, resentment, sadness, anger, hate, a desire for retaliation and a whole host of negative feelings that are associated with hurtful behavior that has been directed at you, someone you care about, or humanity as a whole. Forgiveness is releasing the burden of past pain. The key point to remember about forgiveness is that it is something you do for yourself and for your own wellbeing.

What forgiveness is not

Forgiveness is not forgetting or denial of wrong action. As a matter of fact, the first step in forgiveness is to acknowledge the fact that you or someone you care about has been hurt by another person:

  • Forgiveness is not rationalizing or excusing misbehavior.
  • Forgiveness does not give permission for future misbehavior.
  • Forgiveness does not require that you continue to be involved with the person who hurt you. You can forgive and still understand that the pain of the other person may be so great that it will continue to leak onto those in the vicinity in the form of hurtful behavior. Self-protection or keeping a distance may be required.

The value of forgiveness

Nelson Mandela said, "Hating someone is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it." This quote introduces you to the importance of forgiveness in living a resilient and happy life. Forgiveness keeps you from poisoning yourself with anger, hate and resentment. There is substantial scientific research supporting the positive health effects of forgiveness. The process of forgiveness has been shown to result in reduced blood pressure and heart rate, less anxiety and a reduction in depression.

Beliefs interfering with forgiveness

Which of these statements describe your beliefs about forgiving someone who has hurt you?

  • The hurt was so great, how can I possibly forgive?
  • There are some things that can never be forgiven.
  • They don't deserve to be forgiven.
  • Why should I forgive? What they did was wrong.
  • They have to pay for what they did.
  • They'll suffer if I withhold forgiveness.
  • If I don't retaliate, they'll (I'll) think I'm weak.
  • Continuing to judge them makes me feel like I'm a better person than they are.
  • Why should I show compassion for them? They certainly didn't care about how I felt.

The key to forgiveness: compassion

Philo of Alexandria said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." This quote provides you with the key to forgiveness, which is compassion. Forgiveness is possible when you understand that when a person behaves badly, that behavior is the person's own suffering leaking into the world, onto you and onto other people in the form of negative behavior. W

hen people behave badly toward you, you can be certain that the behavior is not about you, but a reflection of their overall approach to life and the degree of their pain and unhappiness, no matter what they would like you to believe about their behavior. Meanness is pain in disguise.

Forgiveness takes effort

Mignon McLaughlin said, "What we forgive too freely doesn't stay forgiven." You must start slowly. Don't make a list of all of the hurt, anger and resentment you carry that is currently poisoning you. The most difficult step in practicing forgiveness is learning to see the pain behind another's misbehavior. This takes practice, as with any effort at developing new skills and habits. You will want to start slowly. The first step in learning forgiveness is to start with the practice of compassion, which, as said above, is the key to forgiveness. Part of compassion is to learn to see that everyone is swimming in the same soup—everyone is fighting a great battle.

Practice forgiveness

You will have ample opportunity to practice forgiveness—there is lots of pain leaking into the world, whether it be in the form of rudeness or thoughtlessness, or in the form of more significant misbehavior such as abuse and violence.

Here are some tips to begin practicing forgiveness:

  • Identify feelings you have toward other people that are poisoning you with hatred, resentment, hurt and the rest of the negative emotions that keep you stuck in the past and from which you need to heal. Forgiveness is about creating a new future free of this pain.
  • Pick one person and identify the hurtful behavior you'd like to forgive. Start small, with a minor misbehavior that you'd like to stop carrying around with you.
  • Remind yourself that other people's hurtful behavior is their pain (their "great battle") in disguise. If you can, try to understand what that pain is.
  • Determine whether the goal is simply forgiveness, or forgiveness and reconciliation (restoring the relationship). Remember that reconciliation requires more than forgiveness. It requires three things of the other person. Consider reconciliation to be your goal only if the following are true:
    • The individual acknowledges the misbehavior and apologizes. It's important to understand that an apology is not about past behavior; it's really a promise about future behavior. It's a promise not to do it again. Repeated apologies about the same behavior are nothing more than broken promises and don't need to be taken seriously.
    • The individual asks for forgiveness.
    • The individual does not repeat the behavior.
Source: Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of hurt, resentment, sadness, anger, hate, a desire for retaliation and a whole host of negative feelings that are associated with hurtful behavior that has been directed at you, someone you care about, or humanity as a whole. Forgiveness is releasing the burden of past pain. The key point to remember about forgiveness is that it is something you do for yourself and for your own wellbeing.

What forgiveness is not

Forgiveness is not forgetting or denial of wrong action. As a matter of fact, the first step in forgiveness is to acknowledge the fact that you or someone you care about has been hurt by another person:

  • Forgiveness is not rationalizing or excusing misbehavior.
  • Forgiveness does not give permission for future misbehavior.
  • Forgiveness does not require that you continue to be involved with the person who hurt you. You can forgive and still understand that the pain of the other person may be so great that it will continue to leak onto those in the vicinity in the form of hurtful behavior. Self-protection or keeping a distance may be required.

The value of forgiveness

Nelson Mandela said, "Hating someone is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it." This quote introduces you to the importance of forgiveness in living a resilient and happy life. Forgiveness keeps you from poisoning yourself with anger, hate and resentment. There is substantial scientific research supporting the positive health effects of forgiveness. The process of forgiveness has been shown to result in reduced blood pressure and heart rate, less anxiety and a reduction in depression.

Beliefs interfering with forgiveness

Which of these statements describe your beliefs about forgiving someone who has hurt you?

  • The hurt was so great, how can I possibly forgive?
  • There are some things that can never be forgiven.
  • They don't deserve to be forgiven.
  • Why should I forgive? What they did was wrong.
  • They have to pay for what they did.
  • They'll suffer if I withhold forgiveness.
  • If I don't retaliate, they'll (I'll) think I'm weak.
  • Continuing to judge them makes me feel like I'm a better person than they are.
  • Why should I show compassion for them? They certainly didn't care about how I felt.

The key to forgiveness: compassion

Philo of Alexandria said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." This quote provides you with the key to forgiveness, which is compassion. Forgiveness is possible when you understand that when a person behaves badly, that behavior is the person's own suffering leaking into the world, onto you and onto other people in the form of negative behavior. W

hen people behave badly toward you, you can be certain that the behavior is not about you, but a reflection of their overall approach to life and the degree of their pain and unhappiness, no matter what they would like you to believe about their behavior. Meanness is pain in disguise.

Forgiveness takes effort

Mignon McLaughlin said, "What we forgive too freely doesn't stay forgiven." You must start slowly. Don't make a list of all of the hurt, anger and resentment you carry that is currently poisoning you. The most difficult step in practicing forgiveness is learning to see the pain behind another's misbehavior. This takes practice, as with any effort at developing new skills and habits. You will want to start slowly. The first step in learning forgiveness is to start with the practice of compassion, which, as said above, is the key to forgiveness. Part of compassion is to learn to see that everyone is swimming in the same soup—everyone is fighting a great battle.

Practice forgiveness

You will have ample opportunity to practice forgiveness—there is lots of pain leaking into the world, whether it be in the form of rudeness or thoughtlessness, or in the form of more significant misbehavior such as abuse and violence.

Here are some tips to begin practicing forgiveness:

  • Identify feelings you have toward other people that are poisoning you with hatred, resentment, hurt and the rest of the negative emotions that keep you stuck in the past and from which you need to heal. Forgiveness is about creating a new future free of this pain.
  • Pick one person and identify the hurtful behavior you'd like to forgive. Start small, with a minor misbehavior that you'd like to stop carrying around with you.
  • Remind yourself that other people's hurtful behavior is their pain (their "great battle") in disguise. If you can, try to understand what that pain is.
  • Determine whether the goal is simply forgiveness, or forgiveness and reconciliation (restoring the relationship). Remember that reconciliation requires more than forgiveness. It requires three things of the other person. Consider reconciliation to be your goal only if the following are true:
    • The individual acknowledges the misbehavior and apologizes. It's important to understand that an apology is not about past behavior; it's really a promise about future behavior. It's a promise not to do it again. Repeated apologies about the same behavior are nothing more than broken promises and don't need to be taken seriously.
    • The individual asks for forgiveness.
    • The individual does not repeat the behavior.
Source: Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

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