It’s hard to go through life without being hurt in some way, shape or form. Maybe our children criticized us for trying to teach them responsibility. Maybe our parents took actions that negatively impacted our well being. Maybe our loved ones have said or done things that were truly hurtful.

All of these scenarios could make us feel wronged. This can lead to pain, resentment, anger, bitterness and – at times – a desire to settle the score. It is easy to sit back and let these things eat away at us day after day. However, doing so can be harmful for not only our mental health and relationships, but for our physical health as well. Not forgiving can lead to anxiety, stress, hostility, high blood pressure, depression and often substance abuse. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse or justify the behavior. It simply means you decide to let go of your pain and anger to find peace. It is important to find our way to compassion for those who have wronged us and forgive. However, that is often easier said than done – especially when the person who has hurt us doesn’t recognize how they have hurt us.

Steps to Forgiveness

  • Reflect on the situation, how you have reacted and how it has affected your life. It is important to feel your pain. Let your sadness and anger out, but don’t let it start to consume you. Put a time stamp on how long you will allow yourself to feel your sadness and anger. When that day comes, take steps to move past it.
  • There are many healthy ways to express and release sadness and anger. Some include writing down your feelings, painting, drawing, sculpting, meditating, exercising or taking a few punches at a bag at the gym. Crying actually releases the body’s stress hormones, according to researchers; therefore, give yourself permission to shed some tears. It’s not a sign of weakness. Talking to a counselor or friend can also be a great way to express your feelings and release emotions.    
  • Visualize that you are the person that has hurt you. Picture what you know of their history, background and upbringing. Try to imagine how you might have reacted in the same way if you were in those shoes. Consider that they are doing the best they can or know how at that point in their life because they, too, are learning and growing constantly. If you can envision even half of their point of view, you can start to move towards forgiveness.
  • Reflect on the times in your life when you have made a mistake and how you have hurt others. Think of how horrible they might have felt concerning your actions and how awful you felt in relation to your actions. It is quite possible that you asked for forgiveness so why not grant the same reprieve to those who have hurt you?
  • Actively choose to forgive the person who has hurt you. Step out of the victim role and release the power they have held over your life. Choose to let it go. Choose to move forward. Some people write a raw letter to the one who hurt them and then let go and forgive as they watch it burn. Others put it inside a balloon and watch it fly away. While others tie it around a rock to let it sink to the bottom of a lake. Maybe all you need to actively forgive is to say out loud, “I forgive you.” Do what feels right to you, but just make sure you do it.

Remember that the world is a very imperfect place, as are people – including you. You will undoubtedly go on to make many more mistakes as will others. If you can begin to expect bumpy roads and ruffled feathers instead of demanding perfection, patience, understanding and forgiveness will exude from you. Your mind, your body and your loved ones will thank you.

Information taken from:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/forgiveness/MH00131

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing

Chicago Senior Living