Forgiveness is letting go of resentment or a desire for revenge toward those who have done you harm. Unfortunately, forgiveness can sometimes take years to develop. In some situations, it is unattainable, and people die never having let go of anger and resentment toward another.
Forgiveness is not for the forgiven but for those doing the forgiving. Science has discovered when a person is asked to think of someone who has wronged them; they experience a stress response. Blood pressure becomes elevated; they sweat, heart rate, and muscle tension increase. However, when asked to think of those same people with empathy and compassion, there was no stress response.
Those who don't forgive have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. For the middle-aged, holding onto resentments can have severe consequences for health. These include higher rates of heart disease and impaired immune system functioning.
Relationships thrive when partners can forgive. Couples report greater happiness when there are high levels of forgiveness. There are no relationships that are without strife or disappointment. Forgiving partners can ease the pain of relationship struggles.
Forgiveness is often seen as a process that can take a while. Forgiving an unfaithful partner or a friend who betrayed your trust can take time. Fortunately, for most of us, betrayals don't happen daily. Minor transgressions by friends, partners, colleagues, and strangers are usually the norm. Can forgiveness provide relief from life's little annoyances?
A practice of daily and universal forgiveness may be the secret to stress relief. If we can quickly forgive those, who are rude, selfish, or insensitive, feelings of anger decrease. When we experience less anger, fewer stress hormones are released in the body. This results in better emotional and physical health.
If you research the process of forgiveness, you will find several multi-step techniques. The following from thriveworks.com provides a framework that can be easily used. This framework offers five practical steps for forgiveness:
Reflecting on the situation asks you to take a moment to examine the causes of the situation. For example, were they rude because they were short on time, in pain, or confused? Could there be reasons for the behavior that felt selfish?
Putting yourself in the other person's shoes is an easy concept to understand. However, if you had the knowledge or perspective of that person, what would you do? Can you see yourself engaging in similar behavior if in the same situation? Have you ever behaved similarly?
Can you learn anything from the experience? A driver who cut you off may teach you to stay alert. The rude cashier may be reflecting back your sour mood. An unresponsive boss may not understand your communication.
Next is the best part, let it go. This step asks you to release the negative thoughts and emotions about the incident. A simple technique is to visualize the issue or experience inside a balloon. Let go of the balloon and watch it float high up into the sky until it is entirely out of sight. Breathe deep and feel the tension of frustration and anger leave your body.
Finally, is there anything more to do? Forgiveness does not mean you let people continually treat you in hurtful ways. In the 'what did you learn' step, you may recognize a person will be rude in most situations. To forgive is to let go of the anger and resentment, not your knowledge of their actions.
As you have done the work to let go of the negative emotions, you can make decisions with a clear head. Are there changes that you need to make in relationships? Is it time to look for a better working environment? Should you change your commute route to avoid crazy drivers?
With practice, you can progress through these steps quickly. It can take you to the critical decision-making step without days of simmering anger and resentment. It can decrease the unwanted physical and emotional side effects of negative emotions and increase your ability to consider the behavior of others with a clear head.
Daily forgiveness can give you the confidence to engage with people and form new relationships. When the behavior of others can't hurt you emotionally, the world is a little less scary. Good feeling emotions may begin to outnumber the bad. Without resentment taking up brain space, empathy, generosity, and curiosity may move in.
Forgiveness is good for your physical and mental health. It is recommended to apply it daily for best results.