What is forgiveness? What does that actually mean?

Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. It is the act of letting go. It doesn’t mean that you deny that there was a wrong done or DENY that you or someone else was hurt. It means you choose to let go and move on. You may tell someone that you forgive them but that isn’t necessarily part of it. It is the choice that you make that is important—you choose to forgive. You stop refusing to move on.

Why is it important for you to forgive?

When you choose not to forgive, there are serious health consequences. People can have high blood pressure from holding on to anger, and they can have weight problems connected to this. Many people suffer from insomnia when they cannot let go and the stress of going over and over resentments and slights can lead to severe depression.

Not choosing to let go of anger keeps you from ever living in the present. If you are constantly going over something that happened in the past, you are never experiencing the present. You are wasting your life. Think about that.

You are denying yourself peace of mind. You are wasting energy that could be used to build a life of calm and happiness.

You may be impacting relationships in a very negative way. You won’t be relating properly to good people that come into your life and you will attract more negative situations.

You are giving someone else power over your life. Think about that.

So, to sum in up, you are only hurting yourself.

I think it is important to understand some things about forgiveness to help you decide to make the choice to forgive:

Forgiveness does not mean that we ignore a wrong or something terrible. There are awful things that happen to people, and when we choose to forgive, it does not mean we condone the action or actions, or say that there are no consequences. Even if something was a hurtful comment or a repeated criticism, we don’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt. It did hurt.

Forgiveness does not mean that we forget. It means we may always remember, but we will attain more peace with the memory. Gradually, we can let it go.

It does not necessarily mean there will be reconciliation with the person who wronged us. Perhaps there may be, but there are cases where this is never going to happen. In some cases, the person may never know we have decided to forgive them, or they may not even be aware of the fact they did something to hurt you.

If the person assaulted or attacked you or someone close to you, you will not want reconciliation, nor should you put yourself or anyone else in danger by being around that person. You may not ever want someone to be a part of your life, but in order for you to feel peace and go on with your life you must make the decision, you must choose to forgive!

The only way healing can begin is for that first decision to forgive.

Forgiveness is a choice. It is not an easy choice, and it can be very hard work. But, it is so worth it! It will be one of the best things, one of the kindest things, and one of the healthiest things you can ever do for yourself!

If you want your life to be happy and more fulfilled, if you want your days to be calmer and more peaceful, make the decision to forgive. It is hard work, and it takes courage. Don’t kid yourself. It does take courage to forgive. It can take awhile, but again, it is so worth it!

I didn’t truly feel forgiveness in my own life until I started saying I forgive you.

I just kept saying it in my mind, so that my brain and body would start believing it and acting it out. I want you to think about how this can be connected to circumstances in your own family or life.

There’s a wonderful thing about forgiving— we can stop obsessing about something.

The obsessing and going over and over a story or conversation or something that happens, only makes it worse. Read this again: It only makes it worse. There are times when we need to talk about something that happened and get it out, and I will talk about that as one of the steps to forgiveness, but it is important to stop talking about it at some point. When you keep talking about it, you keep something alive and active and in the present. That isn’t where you want bad stuff. It hurts you more than it hurts anyone. Mentally going over and over the pain or hurt, gives the person who caused you pain power over you. Focus that energy on healing, not hurt! Remember, you have the choice to do that. It takes courage to do this. It takes courage to let go, but it can be your choice to do this.

So, let’s talk about the steps to forgive:

1. Face the fact that you feel anger and resentment. It can feel justified, it can have been legally acknowledged. Face the anger, acknowledge that it is there, and decide you are going to do something healthy and healing about it. Decide that you are tired of feeling annoyed, angry, and resentful and that you want to change those feelings to ones of peace and calmness. It takes a lot of energy to feel anger. Decide to put that energy toward feeling good and peaceful.

2. Make the decision to forgive. This has nothing to do with whether someone apologizes, acknowledges or even knows that you are forgiving. You do this for yourself and make that decision—choose to forgive!

3. Be willing to begin the forgiveness process. Tell yourself that you are strong and courageous enough to do this. Even if you don’t believe it at first.

4. Acknowledge that you were hurt but that you want to move on. This isn’t a denial that something happened nor are you condoning bad behavior.

5. Say to that person, I forgive you, in your head, throughout your day. There may come a time where you can talk to the person about it, or the ultimate fantasy, they actually come and say they are sorry, but chances are that won’t happen. Start forgiving them in your head and it will lead to your heart.

6. Remind yourself that the person is not one act. Yes, there are terrible, evil people in the world that do like to hurt others, but I am referring to regular people who have done hurtful things. Separate mistakes from the person. Remember times when you hurt someone. Perhaps you said or did something that you truly regret and feel shameful or foolish about. Remember that you would not want to be judged by that action alone. In this way, you will start to feel compassion and that can be very healing for you. Remember, forgiveness is to help you heal and be happy and to let go of anger. It may never have any effect on anyone else.

7. Allow yourself to talk about the situation to someone close to you who will not gossip or continue feeding into this. Sometimes we have to tell someone, but once is enough. Another way to get it out, is to write it down. Sometimes, we may need to write to the person who hurt us about the hurt, but we want to wait to do this until we have truly started the process of forgiveness. Again, you cannot do this with the expectation of an apology or even response—it has to be for you and you have to acknowledge that they may never admit they were wrong.

8. Protect yourself. If you or someone else would be in physical danger, do not put yourself in a situation where you would be near the person. You make the choice—do not let anyone else make that decision for you. If necessary with people who say hurtful things, limit your time with them. Again, you are an adult, make the choice.

9. There are times we can choose not to respond to people’s remarks statements. Choose kindness over being right. Remember, you want to be happy. You want a calmer life. You are choosing to live in a better way.

10. Learn to ignore what people say sometimes. We choose whether to react. You do not have to react. Try saying I forgive you, in your head, immediately after someone says something that bothers you. You can keep your own power by choosing silence. You will be amazed at the different feeling that you have throughout your body. NOTE: This may take awhile. This can sometimes take a long time. Remember your decision to make this move. Then reinforce it periodically. When you find yourself falling back into frustration and anger and annoyance, go over your steps again.

Now, what if you still feel that you cannot let go? You may want professional help. A counselor, a therapist—someone who is trained may be the best recourse if you still have anger issues and you cannot let go of resentments.

Choose to live in a healthier way, and sometimes that means asking for professional help.

There is one area I want to touch on that sometimes we forget about.

We have to forgive ourselves sometimes. I truly think that we can make ourselves sick and unhappy by letting thoughts about what we did in the past linger in our brains and bodies.

- If you have stuff in your past that you feel ashamed about, you need to move on.

- If there are people you need to apologize to, go do it. Saying the words, “I’m sorry,” can change everything. Think how nice that is to hear, and how your anger or irritation can disappear in a flash when someone offers a true apology.

- If you can make amends, do so. This may not be possible, but acknowledge what you did and LET IT GO!

- Perhaps you did things that you feel hurt you more than anyone else. Go through the same steps I discussed to forgive other people. Say, “I forgive myself,” as many times as you can each day. It works. Try it. Don’t beat yourself up for things that happened in the past. Face those things and move on! It’s your life now! Live for right now and make it happy and make yourself content.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and other people. No one truly knows what is going on inside someone else. Assume they hurt and feel things just like you do. Stay away from people who continue to hurt and choose who you want to be around. Enjoy being with yourself, calm, happy and stress-free!

© 2010 Diana Fletcher

Author's Bio: 

Diana Fletcher is the Stress Reducing Expert Life Coach, Speaker, and Author. Please visit www.dianafletcher.com to receive your free gift of 25 tips to Reduce Your Stress. Contact Diana at (412) 612-5977.