In this article, I will explore the psychology behind forgiveness, the benefits of forgiving, and provide practical tips and techniques that you can apply in your daily life to become a more forgiving person. Whether you are struggling to forgive someone who has wronged you or seeking to improve your overall well-being, this blog is for you. So sit back, relax, and let's dive into the fascinating world of forgiveness.
“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.” Dave Willis
When I was younger, I was made fun of by some of the bigger boys. I felt insecure in elementary school and of course, this made me a target. The real problem wasn’t really the teasing that I got, the real problem was how I harbored hate against them. At night I would go into my imagination and pretend to beat them up to gain some self-respect. At the time, it was the only way I knew how to deal with the situation
Over time, I just learned to let things go. In essence, I learned to forgive. I figured out that the hate I was holding onto was only making me bitter. It was eating away at me from the inside, keeping my self-esteem low and giving them more reasons to tease me.
Once I learned to release the anger, forgive and send love to them my self-esteem and self-confidence went up. Way up.
According to research, if you are struggling with anger, depression, or anxiety (all symptoms I had before I learned to forgive) then forgiveness may just be the perfect medicine to relieve you from your symptoms.
People who learn to forgive have lower rates of depression, lower levels of anger, reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, and higher satisfaction with life. Basically, forgiveness acts as an antidepressant.
Four Strategies for Becoming a More Forgiving Person.
1. Practice empathy.
Try to see the other person's point of view. What do you think could be the reason for their behavior?
When my daughter, Katie, was in 3rd grade, one of her classmates was mean and rude to the other kids. He was so out of control that even his teacher was at her wits end with him. So one day Katie and I were talking about his behavior and It seemed that even though his behavior was that of a textbook bully, Katie never seemed to be really bothered by him. In fact, she was more curious than anything.
One day she asked me “Why would he act that way?”
I was delighted she was trying to get a handle on his choices rather than being bothered by him. Before I could answer her she said, “Maybe it is because his parents smoke cigarettes.” Whether or not that was his reason for being mean to others (I doubt it was) doesn’t really matter. What matters is that at 8 years of age, she wasn’t taking his actions personally. She was merely trying to understand.
2. Choose love instead of hate.
After reading “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino I began practicing the art of expressing love to everyone I would meet. Before you jump to any conclusions, no I am not one of those huggy guys. Although, forgiveness can lead to hugs. The way Og suggests you practice love is with your thoughts. He says to think quietly to yourself “I love you” when you are visiting with someone.
By holding the thought of love in your mind, you are putting off positive loving energy. And since you can only hold one thought in your mind at any time, the thought of love is also blocking out any judgmental thoughts you may otherwise be thinking.
This simple act helps me to quieten my mind while listening to the person I'm talking with. As a result, I can be totally present for them. In addition, if something is said that I might disagree with, the presence of this loving thought allows me not to take it so personally, leaving me no reason to forgive them.
3. Practice acceptance.
In the book On Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross postulated the Five Stages of Grief. They begin with denial and end with acceptance. When we are unforgiving of the things that happen to us in life it is because we are living in denial. We refuse to accept our circumstances as they are and therefore fail to experience them accurately.
Denial leads to anger, blame, and feeling like a victim. “How could they have done this to me?” and “Life isn’t fair,” becomes one’s mantra when they are in this stage.
The truth is things happen to us in life that we don’t agree with and can’t always understand. We don’t always get our way and our point of view is not always considered. Sometimes it seems that life just isn’t fair.
However, until you accept this as truth and stop resisting these facts you will never have the ability to work toward change. Plus, accepting that bad things happen to good people and that people aren’t perfect frees you to forgive others for not living up to your expectations. It allows you to see them for who they really are, a child of God trying to make sense of this world just like everyone else. I believe Jesus said this best when he was on the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
I know this is difficult to do when horrible things happen to us. In fact, when we hear stories of someone forgiving their son or daughter's murderer, we almost don’t believe it, or see it as a miracle. But you must realize, they don’t forgive to let them off the hook for their act of terror, they forgive so that the hate doesn’t destroy them from the inside. And as a result, move on with their lives.
3 steps to move from denial to forgiveness
In order to move from denial to forgiveness, we need to these 3 steps.
- Accept that what happened happened, no matter how horrible it was.
- Next, we must realize that our hate and vengeance, regardless of how strong it is, will not allow us to go back in time and change the outcome.
- Adopt the belief that everything that happens provides us with valuable lessons. When we turn our focus away from the injustice of the situation to learning we are able to stop feeling like a victim.
At this point, we can become empowered to move forward with our lives, learn the lessons we are provided with and somehow make the world a better place because of them.
4. Be grateful for everyone and everything in your life.
Gratitude is amazing because it helps to keep our focus on the positive in any situation. By expressing gratitude instead of hate or resentment we allow ourselves to be students and our circumstances to be our classroom.
Pray for more patience and you will surely be put in situations that allow you to practice being patient. When someone begins to offend you, be grateful for the chance to practice your forgiveness skills. Try to see their point of view and send love their way.
In order to start practicing gratitude in your life begin by asking yourself the following questions.
- “What is great about this situation right now?”
- “What problem do I really have right now?”
- “Even though this didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, what can I learn from it?”
- “What is one thing I am thankful for in my life right now?”
Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but by practicing these four steps I believe you will begin to experience what others might call miracles in your life.
What are some strategies that you use to forgive?