I’m a big fan of forgiveness, but I understand it’s not for everyone. In my personal experience, letting go of a grudge against my parents simplified my life tremendously and paved the way for our relationship to be much more loving.
I never got an apology, and we never had “the talk” I thought I needed. I just knew that I was finished being angry and resentful, and I wanted to feel more peaceful inside.
I can see now that this grudge was a huge energy vampire for many years, and now I don’t even think about what happened. It no longer occupies my mental and emotional real estate, which is why things feel simpler.
If you are struggling with forgiveness and finding it difficult, then this post is for you. It’s a list of 10 life-changing facts about forgiveness. Absorb these 10 facts, contemplate them, and experiment with putting them into action in your own heart and mind.
Be patient, because forgiveness is a process, but stay committed to the peace you long for.
1. Forgiveness is life-changing.
Just like me, maybe you’ve been holding onto a grudge for a long time. If so, you know how it seeps into your thoughts and dominates your emotions. The grudge sits in you like a big, heavy lump of steel that refuses to move.
But start to get serious about forgiveness and make peace your priority, and your life will change. You’ll be more free, more open, and more available to enjoy yourself.
2. Forgiveness is about you, not about anyone else.
Forgiveness is a process that opens your heart and gives you peace of mind. If you are stuck in hate and bitterness, you are the one suffering.
The letting go that constitutes forgiveness untangles the knot in you so you feel happier, lighter, and more present. You’re no longer living in distressing stories and painful emotions.
In a flash of insight, I realized how much the anger I carried was affecting my daily life. That was enough for me to commit to letting it go and being peaceful. That was it—I just wanted to feel better. That it changed my relationships for the better was a happy side effect.
3. Forgiving doesn’t mean you approve of bad behavior.
There’s no doubt about it: people do nasty things, and what happens in life is not always fair.
But what does not forgiving do? It doesn’t get you resolution, and it doesn’t change what happened.
Forgiving doesn’t mean you let that other person off the hook. It means you’re letting yourself off the hook. If people have wronged you, they need to walk their own path about what they did.
Your path is your business. You can’t control what happened or other people’s behavior, but you can control how you meet your own experience.
If you persist in focusing on the terrible things someone did to you, even though the actual behavior stopped long ago, you are still hurting yourself in your mind. If you commit to letting it go and focusing on the joys and gifts present right now, you are well on your way to healing your heart.
4. If you’re having trouble forgiving, you still hold the belief that what happened shouldn’t have happened.
This is resistance, and will paralyze you. If you fight the facts, you’ll never win because it’s too late. What happened already happened.
Instead, take a deep breath, and accept the facts. Realize how painful it’s been for you. Let the sadness, grief, and anger come. And when you’re ready, step away from the pain refreshed and ready to live again.
5. You’re hurting yourself more than anyone else.
You’re holding a grudge when you feel locked into a story of what happened and you feed that story with your attention. Every definition of “grudge” that I found talks about “ill will and resentment.”
When you resist forgiving, you’re solidifying your experience of ill will and resentment.
6. You don’t need an apology.
If you can have a heartfelt conversation with whomever you feel wronged you, then go for it. But often that isn’t in the cards. The person may be unable to hear you, unavailable, or deceased. And you are likely to find that the apology isn’t that satisfying anyway.
Forgiveness is an inner letting go. In the state of not forgiving, you’re plying the hurtful story with your attention so it stays feeling very real for you. When you forgive, you stop thinking about the story, and you welcome your feelings in your own space of awareness.
And this is what you can do in your own quiet moments.
7. Forgiving supports the health of your body.
Are you still questioning the mind-body connection? Then consider this. Research has shown that forgiveness reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate, and improves sleep and immune system functioning. It also reduces anxiety, depression, and anger, and promotes a sense of well being.
The flip side is that not forgiving does a number on your body due to chronic anger and stress.
8. You’ll probably need to express your feelings.
When we’re caught up in our anger and resentment, we’re actually avoiding the intensity of our feelings. Let yourself feel whatever you feel—anger, rage, sadness. Express these feelings with a therapist, trusted friend, in a letter you don’t send, or in front of an empty chair.
Then take a breath and breathe with the sensations you feel. Let these sensations rise up and pass on. You’re being present with your experience in a deeply loving way.
9. You may not need what you think you need.
By now, you probably have some very distinct ideas about what you need in order for you to forgive. But consider other possibilities as well. And here are two for you to experiment with.
Try giving yourself what you think you need from someone else. If you think you need love, give yourself love. If you think you need understanding, spend some time in deep compassion and understanding with yourself. If you think you need an apology, imagine getting it and feel the effects in your body, mind, and heart.
Then see if you can give out to others what you think you need. Can you open to others with love, acceptance, and understanding? Is there anyone you feel moved to apologize to? How can you be kinder?
10. It’s empowering to forgive.
Not forgiving keeps you squarely locked into the victim mentality. You feel that something was done to you, and you put the possibility of healing into someone else’s hands.
When you make the decision to embark on the path of forgiveness, you’re reclaiming your power. You’re taking responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, and helping your own sense of peace to flourish.
A Note About Forgiving Yourself
These 10 facts also apply to forgiving yourself. There’s so much suffering when you’re locked into a story about something you shouldn’t have done, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
The most important thing is that you learn from the experience. Make amends, vow to yourself and others that you’ll be more aware of your choices, then go ahead and consider letting go. It’s okay to let yourself be at peace.
Then consider an idea I love—living amends. When regretful things happen, take care of them. Don’t let them fester; don’t live in shame without apologizing and making it right as soon as possible. Don’t keep yourself in situations where you’re treated poorly.
If you find yourself stuck and ruminating about something that happened, deal with it so it no longer hijacks your peace and happiness.
What About You?
Have you had difficulty forgiving? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love to hear… And if you’re reading by email, please click here to visit GailBrenner.com and to comment.
Always in love,