The Benefits of Forgiveness
for·give·ness /ˌfərˈɡivnəs/ noun: forgiveness
the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. "she is quick to ask forgiveness when she has overstepped the line"
for·give /fərˈɡiv/ verb: forgive
stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake. "I don't think I'll ever forgive David for the way he treated her"
Forgiveness isn't just a simple act of uttering words and considering something done. It can take practice and without question takes a mindful approach to fully and consciously let go of emotions that don't serve you. Studies have shown that the ability to forgive actually improves your health, including lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
Psychologists define forgiveness as a mindful and deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward someone who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve it. Forgiveness is again, one of those things we learn throughout our lifespan; if we're raised in a home that allows for forgiveness with true intent of letting go and allowing someone to repair their relationship or amend their wrongdoing, we're usually very good at it. If we come from an upbringing where grudges and feuds are the norm, we adapt to that. It should be noted that forgiveness is also a very personal process and has intimately unique outcomes for each of us. It's not linear, and is often a journey that varies from person to person.
There are a few lenses through which you can look at forgiveness:
Forgiving yourself - have you done something that's made you feel ashamed? Did you make a big mistake and have been forgiven by someone else, but haven't taken the time to reconcile the events for yourself?
Forgiving others - Has someone done something that made you feel bad? Has someone offended you? Or perhaps hurt your feelings?
The blend: receiving forgiveness from someone else - Do you know how to receive forgiveness in a meaningful way?
It took me a long time to learn how to forgive; I had a tumultuous early childhood and often translated my needs to be wanted and loved as forgiveness, when in reality, it was just the desire to be wanted and loved. This ended up manifesting in a lot of internal dialogue that shaped my early years, often questioning my self-worth, finding my place in a pecking order to be and feel heard, and in some instances, shying away from productive conflict. This conflict would have allowed me to actually have my needs met, versus trying to please others in a facade of forgiveness. I masked a lot as a child and early into my teen years and carried a lot of animosity toward others as a result of my inability to understand how forgiveness worked.
That said, my (wonderful and loving) father gave me as many tools as he could - often demonstrated versus discussed. He encouraged giving to others, open dialogue and discussions to get to the root of conflict to find forgiveness within any circumstance. He was probably the most forgiving person I've ever known, seemingly being able to let go of the things that would have normally buried other people. I always admired his ability to turn the other cheek or walk away from a relationship that no longer served him, always being better for his decisions to do so.
I lost my way in forgiveness for a period of time during my mid-teen into early adult years. I felt empowered being angry and holding a grudge; I can assure you, this did nothing more for me other than steal focus from important growth opportunities, reduce quality sleep, invite conflict and drove me to sometimes using alcohol to work around the emotions I was experiencing. As I've grow, and through becoming a mother, I've learned the power of personal peace.
There is incredible power in holding space for your personal peace and letting go of the things that don't serve you. A lot of my personal growth has come through work around being mindful, establishing a stronger mindset and continually challenging and honing my resiliency skills. This is an ongoing practice for me, something I work on daily.
Here are some tips to help you refine your approach to forgiveness:
Embrace the emotion - As my Dad always told me, "You gotta feel it to heal it." Acknowledge and sit with your emotions. Be okay with anger. Be okay with sadness. Be okay allowing the feelings to make you feel uncomfortable. There's nothing wrong with being in this space. It allows us to process and digest what we're experiencing and oftentimes lends insights into where we can go from here.
What Hill Matters? - "What hill are you willing to die on?" - what's REALLY important? Is it more important to be right? Or is it more important for you to have personal peace? I will almost 100% of the time choose my personal peace.
Humility - Knowing when you made a mistake and making the active choice to accept the consequences of your actions is one of the most powerful things you can do in receiving forgiveness and also being able to forgive yourself.
Operate with empathy - Empathy is an incredibly powerful thing to lean into on a daily basis, if I'm thinking of others while working through my day, it's unlikely I'll find myself in a situation where I offend or upset someone, thus not needing to apologize to someone. This is forward thinking and mindful - it takes a lot of practice and attention to make sure you're thinking of others in your daily activities.
De-victimize yourself - move away from the mindset of being victimized by someone else. Visualize cutting ties and removing the shroud that you wear and embrace the power of who you are!
Practice - Practice forgiving. Think about what it will feel like to let go of a grudge or to be forgiven - embrace the possible feelings of quiet or excitement that it brings to you.
Journal - write your experiences out; document the lessons you've learned and the pathways you can take forward to free yourself of the burden of your conflicts.
Want to learn more about becoming more mindful or improving your resiliency skills? Want to discuss your path to forgiveness or bring a custom workshop on resiliency and forgiveness to your team? Reach out, a call doesn't cost a thing!