“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”
– Pi Patel in Life of Pi (2012)
Sadly, some people are hurt by the actions of others at some point in their lives. Perhaps they were treated badly, had their trust betrayed or heart broken. It is normal to feel pain, but to let the pain take over your life is self-destructive. Pain can leave you feeling angry, bitter or even vengeful. However, if left unchecked, it can fill your life with resentment and hostility and stop you moving forward or unable to find happiness.
The longer you hold onto pain, the harder it is to let go. Learning to forgive makes it easier to let go of past hurts and helps you enjoy a more contented and fulfilled life.
What is Forgiveness?
This is a commitment to letting go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Forgiving the person who hurt you doesn’t excuse the act, doesn’t justify the wrong or compel you to make up with them. And it won’t make that person become a better person. You cannot control what they do, but you can take control of your life.
Forgiving isn’t the same as forgetting. It is recognising that what happened is in the past and accepting that there is no point in reliving it day after day, and allowing the negative energy of resentment to dominate your life in the present and muddy your future. Letting go of bitterness enables you to heal and move on to a better place.
The Effect of Holding a Grudge?
Reliving the hurt over and over again through a thought or feeling of corrosive anger can sap your energy and destroy inner peace.
Make life seem like an endless struggle
Make you unhappy, depressed or anxious
Put a strain on relationships
Affect your health
Make you nervous about opening up to new people
Convince you that you are not good enough
Make you feel your life has no purpose
The Benefits of Forgiving Someone
Breaking the cycle of anger and hurt can change your life. It can:
Stop pain defining you, enabling you to heal
Help you make stronger relationships
Create greater spiritual well-being
Improve your health
Improve your self-esteem
Reduce anxiety and stress
How do you Forgive?
Only you have the power to let go of resentment and a desire for revenge. To start the process, you have to make a commitment to change and let go. Here are some suggestions how:
1. Write down the name of the person or persons who hurt you. Think about them and what they did to you. Was it deliberate or was it reckless? Try to understand why they did what they did. Sometimes this sheds new light on the hurt and may lessen it. If you want, cry or shout to release pent up emotions. Forgive each person. When you are finished, throw the paper away. Let the act symbolic closure and that it is time to move on with your life without pain and bitterness holding you back.
2. Write the person a letter telling them exactly how you feel. Read it aloud as if you were talking to them face to face, and then burn it or shred it. As you do, tell yourself you are clearing your mind of any negativity.
3. You need to be in control of your mind, not the other way around. Notice your thoughts without letting them dominate your every waking moment. If you can control what you think and feel, over time, your negative feelings and emotions may lessen.
4. Think of the problems the hurt causes you. Does it make you unhappy? Does it affect your relationships with family and friends? Does it stop you from pursuing your dreams? Now imagine what your life might be like if you were not consumed by bitterness. Let that image inspire you to break from the past.
5. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t make anything better, so try not to think of yourself as a victim. By doing this, you take away the control the person who hurts you has over your life.
6. The Beatles said it: “All You Need is Love.” Retribution might help some people in the short-term, but it won’t heal you in the long haul. The way forward is to love yourself, value yourself and be kind to others. Loving thoughts and actions will create positive energy that will attract more positive results and contribute to creating a better future for yourself.
Paul Boese was spot on when he said, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” It doesn’t mean forgetting that you were dumped by the love of your life, betrayed by a friend or lost a chance of a dream job because of a scheming colleague, but it can lessen the grip of pain and help you make a better life for yourself.
Imagine forgiveness as a gatepost. Do you go through to incredible opportunities waiting on the other side or do you stay in a life filled with unhappiness and stress?