Forgiveness is a beautiful part of our experience here in this world. When done correctly, forgiveness can bring inner peace, healing, and clarity. Time and time again, research has shown the link between mental health and forgiveness. Individuals who can forgive others have decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and even lower mortality rates! Yes, read that again. People who do not practice forgiveness can suffer from negative emotions, resentment, anger, stress, anxiety, and bitterness towards the person who hurt them. Holding onto those solid negative thoughts and feelings may bring negative physical symptoms over time.
At this point, you might be thinking, "Okay, but this person hurt me; how can I forgive them?
The answer is not about them; it's about you. When it comes to forgiving someone, you first need to break down the common misconceptions that go with it.
First, forgiveness is not for the person who hurt you; it's for YOU. When you decide to forgive someone, it is not saying that what they did was justified, and it is not giving them a free pass to hurt you again. Forgiveness is not meant to help the person who hurt you; it's intended to serve as a healing device for you. When you forgive someone, you are simply saying that you are ready to heal and move on from what this person did to you and that this person is no longer worth the negative physical and emotional energy you spend on them.
Second, forgiveness does not mean forgetting. How many times have you heard the saying "forgive and forget"? Probably a lot. When you forgive someone, it is not saying that you forget what they did. Instead, it means you are taking time to acknowledge how their actions made you feel. By processing your feelings and thoughts around the hurt this person caused, you can then set up healthy boundaries with this person or others in your life. When you take the time to acknowledge and forgive, you learn and grow.
Third, your feelings are still valid even if you forgive them. Sometimes forgiveness can be challenging because it can feel like if you deserve the hurt, and how you were feeling and the pain you felt was not valid. This is not true. The pain that you feel from this person is valid and justified, but holding unto it will not help you heal; it will only stop the healing. You do not deserve to hold unto the pain. If forgiveness is blocked for you by the feeling of deserving the hurt this person caused then you need to ask yourself an important question- am I holding onto the hurt to stay close to them? If the answer is yes, know that you deserve more. You deserve to learn and grow, not to hold and hinder. Again, forgiveness is for you, not for them.
Lastly, forgiveness and self-love go hand in hand. When you decide to forgive someone, you do so out of love for yourself. You love yourself enough to say you are ready to let go of the pain and the hurt because you are worth so much more than how this person made you feel.