Health is WAY more than just the food we eat and the amount of exercise we do. Actually, it is my opinion that the psychological and spiritual work we do is more powerful and potent than anything we eat and the physical activity we do. Without a strong mental and spiritual grounding as our cornerstone, it is really difficult to be truly healthy (which is why I focus so strongly on these elements in my coaching!).
When it comes to holding grudges, these can cause some serious long term damage to your health if not dealt with through forgiveness work.
It is normal for us to hold onto anger and resentment when we are hurt by someone. We have all experienced the frustration, upset, hatred and feelings of venom about someone for something they have done to us.
It could be a break-up from a loved one caused by lies or cheating, an argument with a friend over something they said that disrespected you in some way, a disagreement with a family member, a colleague who has pissed you off because of their behaviour, or any number of situations with different people throughout our lives that cause us to feel negatively about them.
The problem is that when we hold onto that pain and resentment, our lives become tainted by the experience and it can affect how we deal with people and how we present ourselves to the world.
Don’t hold a grudge
Holding a permanent grudge against someone for what they have done to us actually causes physical stress on the body. It leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate every time you think of that person or situation. Getting angry and having unforgiving thoughts can affect the healthy functioning of your cardiovascular system which long-term can cause myriad (and quite serious) health concerns that can include weight gain, heart disease and diabetes risk and even depression.
It makes sense then that having forgiving thoughts will mean having better physical and mental health- as well as happier relationships with people into the future. Holding a grudge doesn’t hurt the person you are hating on, but actually harms yourself!
Forgive for yourself
You might think that when you forgive someone it is something that you give to that person who has hurt you. However you need to stop thinking of it in this way. Forgiveness is actually more beneficial to you for doing the forgiving than it is for the person who is forgiven. And you don’t need to wait for them to ask for forgiveness in order to give it.
Rather than dwelling on past hurts and getting upset every time you re-tell the story or think about the conversation you had or the situation that has made you so annoyed, try and forgive that person for what they did.
You don’t even need to tell the person you have forgiven them. It can be a simple act that you do FOR YOU. Write it down, or say it out loud- whatever helps you to move on and feel a sense of peace about the situation.
I like to use the mantra “I forgive you, I’m sorry and I love you”. It can be very hard to say these words, and you might not even mean it at first. But these forgiving and loving thoughts really do help you to begin to move on from the resentment and to clear it from your life.
You aren’t accepting their behaviour
One of the reasons I think that doing this forgiveness exercise can be so hard is because it feels like you are excusing the person for what they did to you.
I don’t think of it this way. Instead I take the stance that I am making a choice to move on and to not allow my life to be dominated and ruined by the hurt they have caused me. I don’t want the negative energy, the hatred, filling me inside and controlling my feelings about situations and people I deal with in the future.
It is like creating a clean slate where hatred is replaced by a sense of compassion and a knowingness that you have learnt lessons that are forever powerful from having gone through and dealt with the situation. It is really an internal process and doesn’t even need to involve the other person.
How to begin forgiving
Of course, forgiveness is more than just saying my mantra above (although it can be a really good start). Depending on how deep the hurt, betrayal or anger goes, it will be a process for you to work through.
It can be quite challenging to go through this process. Just remember that this is a decision you are making to allow yourself to move forward.
True forgiveness requires you to look at the other person’s actions in a way so that you can see that what happened is only one part of who they are. I did this with my ex of many years ago.
It was only when I allowed myself to forgive his actions towards me which had led to us breaking up, and remembered all the good times we had together and all the reasons why I once loved him, that I was able to let go of all the animosity and sadness that I had. I never told him that I forgave him, it was purely something I did for myself that allowed me to heal my broken heart so I could find love and happiness again.
How to forgive
I must say that I am by nature a very forgiving person and that I haven’t held many grudges in my life. The way that I manage to allow myself to move on from hurtful situations (and trust me, I have definitely had my fair share of those!) begins by remembering my own imperfections. I know that there have been times I have also hurt people and I remind myself that we are all only human who have faults and make mistakes. I like to think that I would be forgiven for doing misdeeds to someone and want to also extend that kindness to others in my life (even if they have been a complete a-hole!)
Feel your feelings
When I went through my terrible breakup years ago, I really acknowledged my anger and hurt and wrote down exactly what I was feeling and why. This helped me to see the situation for what it was and to identify what the triggers were for my negative emotions brought on by the situation.
Commit to forgiving
Once I made the decision that I had to forgive my ex, I committed to that. I knew that holding onto all that animosity wasn’t making me a better person and I didn’t want to think that another person could have such a hold on me and ruin things for me. I knew it was beneficial to ME to forgive, so I did it, even though at first I didn’t entirely mean it (not in my true heart anyway, not right away!)
When I committed to making the initial forgiveness it made it easier or me to see the whole situation in a new light. Seeing the whole breakup in full context- from his point of view as well as my own and others involved- I could see that I was also partly to blame for the way things turned out. I felt compassion towards him (in a very small way) which made true forgiveness much easier to obtain.
Meditation was also really important for helping me to accept the situation for what it was. I knew I didn’t need to ever see my ex or have any kind of friendship with him, when I had the clarity brought on by the calmness of my mind (rather than the rage brewing inside me) and I felt ok about that.
It might be different for you depending on your situation. You might decide to reconcile, in which case, you may need to be prepared to know what you want from the relationship and to ask for this in order to make it better in the future.
I should say here that if you are thinking of reconciling with someone face-to-face who has physically abused you, then do be cautious and don’t expect their behaviour to have changed. You may need to seek the help of another person in this kind of situation.
Look for the lessons
My final step to reaching forgiveness is to look for what lessons I had to learn. I am a firm believer in there ALWAYS being a lesson from every experience- positive and negative. In my case, I learned the importance of boundaries and trust and building my own self esteem rather than relying on my relationship to provide that to me. It helped to make me a better person and shaped who I am now and how I present myself in my current relationship. There is always a silver lining which I am sure I wouldn’t be able to have seen if I had just remained angry and hurt forever.
I truly believe that not forgiving only holds you back and prevent you from being the best version of yourself. It is key to transforming your life into one that is brimming with happiness and which will allow you to reach your true dreams and desires.
- What do you think? Do you find it easy or difficult to forgive? Do you have any other tips to add for reaching forgiveness? Please share in the comments!