When asked about their thoughts on forgiveness after a perceived wrong, most people will respond that it’s not easy to do. If they are still harboring anger and pain from the original incident that led to the estrangement, it will be difficult to forgive. But when you choose to forgive, it’s like removing a heavy burden that’s been with you for a long time. While it’s easier to forgive than to forget, experts agree that there are powerful health benefits from letting go of anger—it only happens when you let go of the hurt.
The powerful sentiment of forgiving is practical and good for you; the benefits include the healing of both the psychological and physiological systems. While it’s often hard to let go of hurt and resentment, the long-term benefits are worth it, says Fred Luskin, psychologist and author of Forgive for Good. In his book, he states that you have a right to be hurt “if your spouse cheated on you,” or if your boss promoted the other guy, instead of you. “Life,” he continues, “does not always seem fair, but there comes a time when people have to recognize that making peace with this fact is an unavoidable life task.” Luskin points out that one can learn to perceive a hurt differently. Working on emotional competence and healing, evaluating what went wrong, and sharing the burden can help one gain control over it. Once you have taken these steps, forgiveness can wipe the slate clean.
According to Nancy Kaye, LCSW, and therapist at SCO Family of Services in Hempstead, one of the first steps she tells her patients to do to release feelings of resentment is to talk about it, preferably with the person who hurt you and/or a trusted therapist.
“Confront that person with your feelings and it will help by freeing up bottled feelings,” says Kaye. “It also gives the person an opportunity to explain their actions, which may have been misinterpreted. It’s not always about who was right.”
Kaye points out that suppressed anger may lead to depression. When frustration builds and causes resentment, it’s essential to evaluate the situation and stay on top of it before it becomes full-blown.
“The best course of defense against severe or prolonged stress is in forgiving yourself and those that hurt you, because if you don’t forgive, you hurt yourself more than the person who hurt you,” Kaye says. Additionally, she adds, the act of forgiving allows a person to be in control of his/her own feelings.
Another resource in forgiveness healing:
Heal and Forgive by Nancy Richards – A compelling account about the author’s struggle with abuse and subsequent healing and reconciliation.