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The Art of Forgiveness

How does forgiveness benefit our health? How do we allow ourselves to forgive those who have hurt us?

Forgiving others is not a completely altruistic act, it’s in your own self-interest. If we aren’t able to let go and ultimately forgive those that have hurt us, we hold ourselves in a state of pain and suffering where we re-live a past that we can never change. I see the ability to forgive as a sign of freedom and an act of self-love. To forgive means releasing yourself from past events and the people who have hurt you. It indicates that you are ready to move on and embrace the present moment.

How does it benefit our health?

It is well documented that forgiveness benefits our emotional wellbeing. I’m also a strong believer in the mind-body connection as studies are now recognising that the act of forgiveness can also have a remarkable impact on our physical health and wellbeing.

An article published by the The Mayo Clinic indicates forgiveness promotes health benefits such as:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved self-esteem
  • A decrease in stress and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Symptoms of depression can be reduced
  • Benefits to the immune system
  • Improved heart health

How to forgive someone who has hurt you

Why should we choose to forgive someone who has treated us badly? Because it can help us move on to live a happier healthier life. Having said that, we should never feel pressured to forgive someone out of obligation, or because we think it’s ‘the right thing to do’. I also need to point out that forgiveness is not the only way to move on from painful past experiences, it is possible to lead a happy and healthy life without forgiving your perpetrator.

Forgiveness is not easy, and for someone who has been deeply hurt by another, it can feel almost impossible.

Here are some helpful tips on how to practice the art of forgiveness.

Refrain from judgement

“If we take judging ourselves and others out of our life, we will mostly be living in paradise.” ― Yogi Bhajan

When we form judgments about people, we are forming concrete opinions of them that we do not allow to change. In order to truly forgive a person, we need to open our minds and allow ourselves to accept them without judgement. How does this help us? By learning to refrain from judgement we open up our mind and our lives to more possibility and we are more easily able to accept ourselves and other people.

Live in the present

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Mother Theresa

If we hold our thoughts in the past, we assign more importance to what has already happened than what is, or could be happening in our lives. We can also get stuck on negative thoughts and memories that no longer serve a purpose. Carl Jung famously said, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” When we apply this statement to our lives, we release ourselves from our past and the people who have hurt us.

Choose kindness

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”  ― Dr Wayne Dyer

When our ego takes over, we can become overly focused on the distinctions between right and wrong. We need to remember that by embarking on a pursuit to prove that someone is wrong, we are being unkind, whether we intend to be or not. When we choose kindness, we love and accept the person who has hurt us and therefore choose not to be weighed down by thoughts of righteousness and blame.

Look within

“You have little control over the world around you, but full control over the world within you.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

Instead of focusing on what the person has done to hurt you, without judgement or blame for yourself or another, focus on how it has made you feel. By pinpointing and validating our own emotions, we are better equipped to understand and process past hurts.

Learn to let go

In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.― Deepak Chopra

If we view our experiences, positive and negative, as ways to grow and expand as people, we are not only able to let go of a past that no longer serves us, but we are able to use these past experiences to shape the life we really want to live. Part of this is letting go of unpleasant emotions about our past. Remember, you don’t need to forget your past experiences, you just need to choose not to let your past control the way you feel in the present.

Take responsibility

Removing blame means never assigning responsibility to anyone else for what you’re experiencing.” ― Dr Wayne Dyer

When we are struggling, it’s sometimes easier to point the finger and blame those who have done us wrong. If we apply this logic to our lives, we essentially give our power over to other people because we are saying ‘I am powerless to change until you do’. When we take full responsibility for where we are at, we open up the opportunity to learn from our experiences and take control over the way we feel.

Final thoughts

To anyone reading this I want to acknowledge the need for all of us to process our past experiences and practice acceptance and love towards ourselves. Forgiveness is a journey, and everyone takes it at their own pace. If forgiveness doesn’t feel possible or right for you, please don’t judge yourself harshly.

With that said, I’ll leave you with one last quote:

“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.” ―Sri Chinmoy

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