17 Mar Forgiveness
People often struggle with the pain and anger from offences others have committed against them. When this anger turns into resentment it becomes debilitating. Resentment is associated with poor physical health (e.g. high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease) and mental health problems. In essence, the resentment we hold towards others becomes the pain we inflict on ourselves.
Forgiveness is one way of short-cutting the resentment and anger from a serious offence but sometimes people are not interested in forgiving people who have hurt them (I sometimes I get looks of sheer disbelief for even raising the idea of forgiveness). However, when someone understands what forgiveness is they often realise its potential for healing their life.
Forgiveness is simply a process of letting go of anger or resentment that you hold towards another. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. You can forgive and not re-establish as relationship. For instance it may be dangerous for you to reconnect with someone who abused you but also you need to let go of the anger. Forgiveness is also not pardoning, condoning or forgetting what a person has done. Forgiveness, though found in most major world religions, is also not in itself a religious concept. A person who has no religious or spiritual beliefs can still forgive. Forgiveness is simply recognising and understanding the anger and resentment we hold towards others, including its consequences, and making a decision to release this anger.
The anger and resentment we are holding onto is often serving an important purpose. It may be protecting us from being hurt again or providing us with some meaning to the offence. However, upon exploration people often realise that the anger also has a cost. Usually their anger isn’t actually having much of an impact on other person’s life, rather what is often noticed is the negative affect it is having on their own. Think about it, what is your anger doing? Is your anger actually having an impact on the other person’s life or are they getting about completely unaware of your hatred? Is it impacting your life by making you stressed, wound up etc? Does this make your day or life any better? How could your anger be affecting your health?
Forgiveness involves recognising that your anger and resentment usually are having more effect on you than it is on the offender. In a way, when you’re holding onto resentment and anger you’re allowing the offender to continue to have some control over your life. Do you really want this? Forgiveness firstly involves identifying the futility of anger and then requires you make a decision to release this anger and resentment so that you can live a more fulfilling life. That is why forgiveness can be described as something you do for yourself, not for the other person. Nevertheless, even though you may recognise the need for forgiveness it is a definite challenge and a process that needs to be worked through. It takes time and you may need to work through with a counsellor, therapist or other helping professional.