We’ve all heard the saying “forgive and forget,” but how many of us truly know what this means or how to do it? Forgiveness involves engaging with a complex series of emotions – anger, pain, frustration, and fear – which most of us try to avoid.
Unfortunately, we can’t escape these feelings in life, at least not for long. Chances are, you have been hurt in the past, and you have experienced anger, pain, frustration, and fear. All of these emotions have shaped your current perception of the world, along with the decisions you make, your health, your attitude – nearly every aspect of your life.
The real question is – to what extent have you let these negative emotions go?
Forgiveness is not easy. It’s not a benevolent gesture to be bestowed on someone who has wronged you, to free him from guilt. It’s not about him at all. Instead, it’s an active, challenging internal process that is specifically to help you. It is a shedding of those negative emotions that hold you back, that prevent you from feeling peace, happiness, and even love.
Let’s take an example. Do you have an ex who cheated on you or somehow blindsided you? Did you have to give up on your idea of what the relationship was – and the life you thought you’d have together? Now think about how you dealt with the pain. Did you allow yourself to grieve, or did you emotionally attack your ex in anger? Or did you hold the pain inside of you, forcing yourself to internalize your hurt and carry on?
When you hold on to negative emotions like these, they manifest in your psyche. Over time, you don’t trust men (or women), and have sabotaged recent relationships trying to achieve some sort of guarantee that you wouldn’t get hurt again. Or maybe you have numbed yourself, hiding behind a string of casual relationships that never quite satisfy you. Either way, there is a common link here. You have become so wrapped up in the injustice of the past that you can’t live in the present. Perhaps you’ve become depressed and anxious, or you can’t help but look at the world as a frightening place that needs to be controlled, because it will only let you down.
Maybe it’s time to let go of the baggage you are carrying. Maybe it’s time you considered forgiveness.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with justice, or denying your own pain and the other person’s responsibility in hurting you. Rather, it’s a choice to help yourself – to release the emotional prison you’ve constructed that is no longer serving you and is in fact, keeping love out. Forgiveness is ultimately an act of love for yourself – to allow you to feel peace, joy, and love again.
Forgiveness not only helps heal your emotional scars, but physical ones, too. The Mayo Clinic looks at the health implications of letting go of grudges, resentments, and pain, which they say leads to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Higher self-esteem
As you forgive and let go, your life will no longer be defined by your pain. Instead, you’ll have greater compassion and understanding towards others. As I say in my book, Date Expectations, your perspective changes because you have changed.
If you aren’t ready to forgive your ex, start with more manageable goals, like forgiving the guy who cuts you off on the highway or your neighbor who had the loud party last night. When you are able to forgive and let go of the small things, you’ll be better prepared to let go of what’s really hurting you, like your ex’s betrayal.
Forgiveness is a process, so be kind to yourself along the way. The more you work towards compassion for others, the more prepared you’ll be to allow forgiveness to work its magic in your life.
About the Author:
Kelly Seal is a writer, award-winning dating blogger and author of the new book Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Real Love. Her musings can be seen on Slate, The Huffington Post, eHarmony Advice, Yahoo! Shine, and YourTango among many others.