Everyone has experienced hurt and betrayal. How we deal with it has important implications for our mental and physical health.Social scientists have discovered that people who are able to forgive experience more joy, a sense of control of their lives, and less depression.
People who are unable to forgive experience more stress, have higher blood pressure (which is linked to heart disease), get ill more often, and have more chronic pain. Five things to consider about forgiveness:
- Forgiveness is first and foremost for you. You are the main beneficiary of your choice to forgive. Wayne Dyer says, “Do it for yourself to provide the antidote for the poison that you have allowed to circulate inside of you.”
- Forgiveness is a choice. Your quality of life is inherently linked to making the choice to forgive. The unwillingness to start the process of forgiveness keeps us mired in the past, unable to live in the present and with a limited capacity to envision a positive future.
- Forgiveness is not always tied to forgetting. There are degrees of hurt – from shallow to deep. We can forgive, and should forget, the shallow hurts. It is important however to forgive, and not forget, the deep betrayals so that you do not put yourself, or others, in a situation of being betrayed again. Desmond Tutu said, "In forgiving, people are not being asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we do not let such atrocities happen again".
- Forgiving others is not excusing bad behavior or betrayal. There is no excuse for bad behavior. Period. Just because you forgive someone does not mean that what they did was okay. However, not forgiving them gives them control over how you feel.
- Forgiveness does not mean that you have to continue to be in a relationship with that person. You can choose to forgive someone and also choose not to have a relationship with them if the relationship continues to be toxic or harmful.
Choosing to forgive is a powerful, life-changing gift you give to yourself – a gift of health, happiness, and peace of mind.