Who hasn’t been hurt by the actions or words of another? Perhaps a parent constantly criticized you growing up, a colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair.
These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger and bitterness — even vengeance.
But if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you’re unforgiving, you might:
- Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
- Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
- Become depressed or anxious
- Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
- Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:
- Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
- Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
- Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
- Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them
- Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
- Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?
If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however.
Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.
What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?
Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly.
If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.
Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.