Forgiveness. The mere word makes most of us feel tense. It is a difficult habit to employ, but is one that delivers maximum benefits to our happiness levels and even our health. We have all been on the receiving end of other people’s mean and cruel behavior. Forgiveness can seem out of the question. Unfortunately, we can never be truly happy if we are harboring anger and resentment towards others. When we practice forgiveness, we heal our own wounds. It’s a gift we give ourselves – a detox for our own soul, if you will.
So why is the act of forgiveness such a challenge? According to Mary Shimoff in her book, Happy for No Reason, 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, the top 5 reasons are:
1. We think forgiveness means condoning the wrong behavior
2. We think forgiveness means that we have to let the person back into our lives
3. We think that feeling hatred for that person gives us control, power or strength
4. We feel that if we forgive, we might get hurt again
5. We want to punish the offender
All of these reasons may seem valid, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgiveness is ALL about us. At the basic level, it’s about allowing our hearts to heal and expand. It’s letting go of the toxic anger that keeps us feeling victimized and stuck in the past. At the advanced level it encompasses compassion for our fellow humans and acknowledges that we all are capable of wrong doing. People that cause pain are usually in pain themselves. Their actions are about them, not us. Cultivating empathy towards our transgressors paves the way for forgiveness to unfold.
Often our anger is not aimed at another person, but is directed at ourselves. We have built up resentment and shame around something we have done, or haven’t done. The necessity for and benefits of forgiveness will be the same as the situations concerning others.
In order to achieve ultimate happiness, forgiving ourselves is paramount. Cultivate self-compassion, acknowledge that we all fall short of perfection. Make amends, if need be, learn from the experience and LET IT GO!
If you are ready to forgive and regain inner joy, be mindful that it will take concerted effort. Results can be achieved numerous ways. They range from the simple act of daily prayer to finding a skilled therapist. Choose what feels right for you and dedicate yourself to the process. The decision to cultivate the habit of forgiveness will be the best gift you’ve ever received – from yourself!
Be you. No apologies.