We have all experienced being hurt by someone. These hurts vary in nature, severity, and duration. As a result of the hurt, we live with painful memories experienced emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Often we carry guilt and shame long after the incidents occurred. One thing that can help us begin to heal is to forgive the one who hurt us. Well known researcher on forgiveness, Lewis Smedes, famously said “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” If you are carrying a hurt, try lessening the burden by forgiving.
What is forgiveness? According to the Mayo Clinic forgiveness involves “a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.” It is not forgetting the act that hurt you. However, forgiving can lessen the offense’s hold on you and take away the remaining control the person who hurt you has on you. Forgiving does not excuse the harm done to you or mean you are willing to have a relationship with the person who hurt you. It is you, letting go of resentment, anger, and thoughts of revenge, so you can move forward without those chains weighing you down.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone? Johns Hopkins medical researchers report that chronic anger at being wronged puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes to your heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes. The researchers go on to report the act of forgiving can reverse these negatives by calming the stress response. Through practicing forgiveness you can reap rewards for your health such as:
- Lowering the risk of heart attack
- Improving cholesterol levels
- Better sleep
- Reducing blood pressure
- Lessening your experience of anxiety, depression and stress
The Mayo Clinic describes forgiveness as a commitment to a personalized process of change. Forgiving means 6 things:
- Identifying what needs healing
- Who needs to be forgiven
- What do they need to be forgiven for
- Acknowledging your emotions and working to release them
- Moving away from your role as victim
- Releasing the control and power the offending person has on your life
The Mayo-clinic-staff go on to say, “As you let go of grudges, you'll no longer define your life by how you've been hurt and you'll grow into a person of greater compassion and understanding.” Forgiveness is hard especially if the person who's hurt you doesn't admit the wrong. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you find yourself having trouble practicing forgiveness try, seeing the situation from the other person's point of view. Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Reflect on times you've hurt others and on those who've forgiven you. Talk with a spiritual leader, a counselor, an impartial loved one or friend. Finally, be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small past hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCCS, Executive Director