Forgiveness Makes You Stronger. Here’s How.
Holding a grudge is hurting your mental health. Whether it’s a spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict and animosity can go deeper than you may realise. Being unforgiving is a stress-induced reaction that can lead to elevated levels of anxiety and make you more prone to depression.
Good news though, studies show that the practice of forgiveness is a coping strategy that can improve mental health outcomes. Research also indicates that reduced stress levels lead to better physical health and a stronger immune system.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who have caused you hurt or disappointment, regardless of whether they actually deserve it or not. It doesn’t mean glossing over, forgetting, or excusing the offence, but rather recognising it and then making the decision to let go of it.
Forgiveness brings peace to the forgiver and frees the mind to associate with positive emotions. It also activates the part of the brain that understands empathy.
When forgiving someone, it is also not necessary to reconcile with the offender which is especially true in unhealthy or even violent relationships that may be more harmful to maintain.
Forgiveness is empowering
Besides reducing stress and anxiety and lowering the risk of depression, letting go of anger and hostility can also build self-worth by changing the narrative from that of victimisation (“the other person hurt me and I cannot do anything about it”) to one of overcoming adversity (“it hurts, but I choose to forgive so it doesn’t continue to hurt”).
Forgiveness also makes you more resilient and competent when dealing with challenges. People who are more forgiving of others are more likely to have higher levels of empathy, be more open-minded towards new perspectives, and extend more positive feelings towards people in general. This helps resolve conflicts and repair relationships leading to a greater sense of well-being and improved self-acceptance and confidence.
How to become more forgiving
Forgiveness is not just about saying the words, “I forgive you.” It is an active choice. Sometimes it’s a long process, and it isn’t always easy.
While some people seem to be naturally more forgiving, you can practice forgiveness by making it a conscious part of your life.
Reflect and remember the event. Also consider how you reacted, how you felt, and how the anger and hurt have affected you since.
Acknowledge that the other person was wrong even if it was a mistake or if they didn’t know any better.
Try to empathise with the other person. People cause hurt as a reflection of their own inner state. This doesn’t mean justifying bad behaviour or staying in toxic situations, but rather, understanding that the hurt caused might not be about you at all.
Let go of expectations. Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you will get an apology nor that behaviour will change. There are just some things that are out of your control, and this includes how someone else acts and reacts.
Decide to forgive and seal it with an action. Even if you are unable to talk to the person who wronged you, writing about it in your journal or speaking to someone else whom you can trust, like a loved one or an unbiased professional or counsellor, can relieve you of negative feelings.
Forgive yourself because their behaviour is not a reflection of your worth.
Forgiveness makes you better than you already are. It heals your mental and emotional state, empowers you to take charge of your reactions and of how people affect you, and improves your health - physically and mentally - by letting go of stress. Why would anyone say no to that?
Mental health can impact your physical health. Email email@example.com to find out how Naluri’s 360-degree approach to healthcare can improve your team’s health.
- Written by:
- Chloe Pharamond