I’m a big fan of forgiveness, but I understand if it feels difficult or isn’t the right time for you. In my personal experience, letting go of a grudge against my parents opened my whole experience of life 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 was just tired of feeling angry and resentful and wanted freedom.
Looking back, I can see that this grudge consumed my energy for many years—and now I rarely think about what happened. It no longer occupies my mental and emotional space.
If you are struggling with forgiveness, then this article is for you. Absorb these 10 facts, contemplate them, and experiment with putting them into action in your own heart and mind.
1. Forgiveness is life-changing.
When you turn toward yourself, notice how holding a grudge seeps into your thoughts and dominates your emotions.
Once you’re serious about forgiveness and make peace your priority, your energy naturally begins to open. Instead of chewing on thoughts about the past, you’re available to be compassionate with yourself and way more open to the wonders of the present moment.
2. Forgiveness is about your peace and happiness.
If you are stuck in bitterness, you are the one suffering. And once the knot inside untangles, you’re no longer living in distressing stories and painful emotions.
In a flash of insight, I realized how much anger I carried that affected my daily life. That was enough for me to commit to letting it go. 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.
Here’s the truth: people do nasty things, and what happens in life is not always fair.
Forgiving doesn’t mean you approve of anyone’s behavior. Whomever is the target of your grudge needs to walk their own path.
The path of forgiveness is your own. You can’t control what happened or other people’s behavior, but you can absolutely control how you meet your own experience.
If we persist in focusing on the story of blame, we’re hurting ourselves in our minds. Committing to making space for all that arises, including the joys and gifts present right now, we’re well on our way to opening our hearts.
4. If you’re having trouble forgiving, there is attachment to the belief that what happened shouldn’t have happened.
If you fight the facts of what happened, you’ll continue to stay stuck.
Instead, take a deep breath, and bring awareness to your inner experience. 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. Can you feel how kind this is?
5. Being caught in not forgiving affects you 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.”
Not forgiving means 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 possible. The person may be unable to hear you, unavailable, or deceased. And you are likely to find that the apology isn’t 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 keeps 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. This is the kind and loving thing you can do in your own quiet moments.
7. Forgiving supports the health of your body.
Chronic anger and stress takes its toll on the body.
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.
8. You’ll probably need to express your feelings.
When we’re caught up in the story of anger and resentment, we’re actually avoiding the intensity of our feelings. Let yourself feel whatever you feel—anger, rage, sadness, grief. 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 untangling your attachment to the story and 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 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?
10. It’s so freeing to forgive.
Not forgiving keeps you locked into feeling like a victim. You think that something was done to you, and you put the possibility of healing into someone else’s hands.
When you embark on the path of forgiveness, you’re reclaiming your power. You’re taking loving care of your own thoughts and feelings, and helping your own sense of peace to flourish.
When we bring our loving attention to the places inside that feel stuck, magic happens. Spaciousness…peace…intimacy…aliveness in the present moment…