Why is forgiveness so incredibly hard? Divorce is a good example of an event that causes significant emotional pain and one in which it is so hard to forgive. Many fear that forgiveness will result in increased vulnerability and future hurt so they select self-protection over letting go. Others seek retribution and may have learned unforgiveness from their family of origin. Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning, or necessarily reconciling with the other person. Instead forgiveness is a choice and a process that takes time and effort. Importantly, forgiveness is not contingent upon an apology or remorse, but a decision that is made to release the pain and heal oneself. When one has truly forgiven another person, they no longer harbor bad feelings or have a desire to punish.
The benefits of forgiveness are numerous including improved physical and emotional health, and reduced anger, depression, blood pressure, and substance abuse. Forgiveness empowers self, increases emotional maturity, and reaffirms self-respect. Ultimately forgiveness enables the person to heal quicker, accept others’ imperfections, and avoid the role of victim. Being able to forgive leads to greater understanding, compassion, and empathy for others. Although, for many of us, forgiving ourselves is even more difficult than forgiving others. When we continue to beat up on ourselves for past mistakes it keeps us stuck in emotional pain and turmoil. It also makes it more difficult to forgive others if we can’t forgive ourselves.
There are many ways to forgive, but one of the most powerful strategies is to write a letter to the person who injured you. The letter doesn’t have to be mailed, in fact, it may be better not sent. The letter gives you an opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings about situations, experiences, and events that caused tremendous emotional pain. At the end of the letter you can decide if you are ready to forgive the person. If so, share your decision to forgive, your intention to let go of the pain and need for retribution, and release the person so they no longer take up space in your mind. Being able to confront the person and/or share feelings directly can be helpful as long as it is done constructively and you have no expectation for a positive response. Accept your loss, let go of your need for more knowledge, and choose to forgive so that you can move forward with life. There is tremendous healing power in forgiveness. Who do you need to forgive? Do it now so that it doesn’t consume any more thought, emotion, energy or time.