Many, if not all of us, have been wronged in some way in our lives. It could have been for a betrayal of trust, physical, mental or emotional harm or a myriad number or combination of things. The pain that these events have on us leave a mark. The anger, pain and resentment are carried with us in our lives. We may even keep the emotions fresh by recalling the wrongs to us on their anniversary each year or by keeping it fresh in our minds on a more regular basis. In Frank Herbert's book Dune, the Fremen would morn the loss of people who had died several generations back to keep the pain fresh for those individuals who never experienced the loss using the phrase, “Never to forgive, never to forget!” What benefit does this do to hold onto pain and resentment, and even purposefully or inadvertently passing it on to the next generation?
I have not found any. If anything holding onto pain and resentment only damages ourselves. The American Heart Association suggests that anger and resentment increase the risk of heart disease and increases blood pressure, which can lead to other negative health effects. Type 2 diabetes is also linked to holding on to pain and resentment.
So what is the alternative?
Oh, I know that it is easier said than done. Also, I hear you saying that the person who wronged you doesn’t deserve forgiveness.
Well, forgiveness is not for the person who wronged you it is for you. I am not sure if you have heard of the saying “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It is actually a quote attributed to the Buddha. Regardless of your belief system, this quote really does illustrate the effects of anger and resentment.
So what is forgiveness anyway?
The Greater Good Magazine out of Berkeley University defines forgiveness “as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” They go on to say that this doesn’t mean that you forget what happened or agree with what happened, it is a release. This release allows you to move forward in your life and not have new experiences or relationships to be negatively affected by what happened in your past.
Now, this is by no means easy. Gandhi said, “Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong." It takes time, energy and determination to let go of something that has had a hold on you for a long time. The benefits of forgiveness though are worth the effort.
Lightness: You will find as you release the resentment that you physically start to feel lighter both in your body and your mind. You are no longer dragging the past along with you every second of the day.
Sleep: You sleep better. With the sense of calm that becomes a more regular part of your life, you will find that it is easier to rest and sleep. We also know from the article on self-care that sleep can boost your immunity so you are sick less often and less severely.
Social Connection: When you have left the resentment behind it no longer takes front and centre in your conversations with others. What you talk about becomes more positive, inviting and reciprocal. This helps to strengthen existing social connections and helps us to forge new friendships as well.
Time: You will have more time for the things you love or to be adventurous in trying something new. Letting go of the past transgressions of others actually frees us to live our future. It gives us the time to grow and be who we want to be.
Going about forgiving is an individual process. Some are able to just decide to release the anger and pain, then move forward with their lives. Others need more time and support to do so.
If you are looking for ways to release and forgive and would like more information, please contact me in the comments or calling 226-838-9772.
What would help you release your soul and find forgiveness?
Forgiveness Defined, What is Forgiveness? Greater Good Magazine, Berkeley.edu. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition