We often think of forgiveness and compassion as things we extend to others. Learn to forgive others, sometimes it’s as though we are letting the other person “off the hook”. These can feel profoundly unjust, especially when that someone did something really terrible or caused serious problems or unhappiness.
But keep this in mind: Forgiveness rarely has anything to do with the other person. Rather it’s all about ourselves and how we feel about the situation. More specifically the energy we hold when thinking about the situation. When that energy is negative, it’s so easy to let it manifest.
Even knowing that forgiving is hard. I know that first hand. It’s still difficult for me sometimes. But I manage to forgive, and I’m better for it. So here are my thoughts on why you should learn to forgive.
Hanging Onto Resentment Is Like Doing Shots Of Poison
I can hear some of you yelling back to the computer or tablet or phone: “I can never forgive the unforgivable!” If that’s you, then maybe that’s fine, but only if it doesn’t continue to cause you emotional distress. If you find yourself sitting with anger for hours, days, months, even years, then I would strongly encourage you to give forgiveness and compassion a try.
You might say, “But I can’t help it. I just can’t stop being angry”, or “It always makes me angry when I think about it”. Here’s the thing. If you are angry at someone or about an event or situation – whether that situation happened this morning or 20 years ago – it’s you who is suffering from that anger. The event that made you angry certainly doesn’t care! The other person probably doesn’t either. It’s only you who’s distraught, churning the event or conversation over and over in your head, replaying the situation constantly, reliving the upset. It’s you who suffers, not the culprit. How crazy is that?
Hanging on to anger, resentment, revenge, bitterness or upset is like doing shots of poison every morning and then wondering why you’re sick, tired, and miserable.
You may remember that last week I talked about ways to deal with anger. One of them was to put yourself back in control. Forgiving and being compassionate lets you do that. You are no longer at the mercy of your anger. You are in control of it – and of yourself.
One of my favourite stories about forgiveness comes from the Stanford Forgiveness Project. It beautifully demonstrates the power of forgiveness, compassion, and empathy.
The project’s director, Dr Fred Luskin, brought together for a week a small group of Protestants and Catholics. All lost loved ones in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The losses had occurred more than 20 years earlier, but the grief and anger were still palpable. The years had not softened them.
Over the course of the week, both sides realised they shared the same pain. By the end, the participants reported they felt lower levels of hurt, anger and depression. Luskin reports they experienced a 35% reduction in physiological symptoms of emotional stress, such as irregular sleep, loss of appetite, low energy, and physical aches and pains. And the Forgiveness Project has done this repeatedly, and always the results are similar. Learn to forgive others and yourself. It’s just better for your health and happiness.
To Sum Up
No two scenarios at the same, so when it comes to why you should learn to forgive – there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. That being said, something that a lack of forgiveness often generates is a feeling of bitter resentment. Ultimately, it is you and not the perpetrator who continues to suffer. In some cases, the suffering can be worse than the situation itself. Letting go and forgiving isn’t easy, but if what has occurred continues to eat you up inside, then it’s worth considering for your own sake going forward.
Need more help? As The Real Life Coach, I help my clients with a wide range of issues they may be experiencing in their lives and careers. If you live in Norwich or London and would like to enquire about a session, please click here. I also offer virtual sessions for anyone who can’t meet in person including international clients.
Ready to stop doing those shots of poison? To discover more strategies for dealing with your anger and learning to forgive, check out my latest book, Your Life Your Way.