Healing & Forgiveness: A Closer Look
Welcome to Part 2 of 4 on our current series on Forgiveness, Renewal, and Mental Wellbeing. In Part 1, we discussed the importance of forgiveness, and the ways in which we can learn how to forgive ourselves. For Part 2, we’re taking a different approach, by revisiting one of my earliest and most popular blogs, The Healing Power of Forgiveness.
Why is a lack of forgiveness so damaging?
I often find myself working with clients on forgiveness and its power to heal. It’s a very common struggle; Many people I work with have been hurt in so many different ways and they hold onto anger, resentments, and past pains. This does so much damage. Not only does it not serve them well, but it creates barriers to healing. They also seem to have a misunderstanding about what it actually means to forgive. That’s why I wrote this blog.
What are some important considerations when working toward forgiveness?
- Honor the anger first. Many times we have very good reasons for our anger. Maybe we were hurt or abused in some way. These emotions are good, as they help us identify the pain or injury we’ve suffered. That’s why we don’t want to ignore those feelings. They need to be heard and respected, but not necessarily acted upon. By working to understand our anger, we can begin the process of forgiveness.
- Seek Justice. Anger is a natural emotion and serves the purpose of helping us seek out justice, fix a problem, or right a wrong. It gives us the drive and energy to do this and, when guided by our reason and intellect, anger can serve us well. Think of it like a physical injury. The pain of walking on an injured ankle signals to us that we need to care for that ankle. We can do that by wrapping it in an ace bandage. The pain causes us to seek a remedy. So too, anger and pain cause us to seek a remedy as well.
- Accept the outcome. Whether justice was served or not there comes a point where your anger is no longer useful. The trick is knowing when this happens and accepting that the outcome of your efforts is out of your control. We may think that a person needs to be punished for hurting us; perhaps that means through condemning them. But over time, whether there is a form of justice or not, holding onto the grudge of that wrong actually hurts us, as opposed to helping. When we reach that point, it’s best to recognize that we have reached a point where holding a grudge does not help us. In fact, forgiveness, the act of mercy, can be freeing. Whereas holding onto past pains and struggles can actually be keeping us from personal growth.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to forget. In fact sometimes it is important to remember in order to protect yourself from future harm. Some people, even family members, may do you continual harm. Forgiveness does not mean continuing to subject yourself to future harm. You don’t need to forget what happened or what was done, but rather you can learn from it.
- Forgiveness means letting go of the emotional baggage. Anger, hate, and resentment are intense emotions that create physical energy in your body that can be damaging when not resolved. Forgiveness is the process of learning to let go of these emotions when they are no longer doing anything constructive. By holding onto these feelings, we can often stunt our own personal growth. By letting go of the baggage, forgiving the wrongs people have committed, and releasing ourselves from the pains of our past, we can grow into stronger, healthier people.
What do I do if I’m having trouble letting go of the past and forgiving?
This process is often challenging and many people can benefit from working with a therapist, particularly when they have a history of trauma or abuse. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. Furthermore, as we discussed in Part 1, forgiving ourselves can often be one of the hardest things, but it can heal you and change your life. We have specialists in trauma and abuse available to help you overcome your struggles. If you or someone you care about is struggling with forgiveness, grief, or trauma, reach out to us today. We’re happy to assist you.