- Sunday Sanctuary
The Benefits of Forgiveness
It can be hard to find room in your heart to forgive someone who has wronged you, but when you begin to think of forgiveness as something you do for yourself is the moment you're able to grow from past pain.
Confusing forgiveness with forgetting a past action that hurt you, or implying that the pain a person caused was meaningless by forgiving them, is a misconception we're all guilty of. It can be difficult to let go of grievances because the feeling of acknowledging you've moved on can feel as though it sends a message that what happened no longer hurts you - or worse - that forgiveness validates it in some way. In reality, holding on to a grudge only hurts the holder of the grudge, and forgiveness is an action you can take to liberate yourself - rather than the other person - from the pain they may have caused.
So how does forgiveness benefit the forgiver more than the forgiven?
Refusing to let go of resentment can be compared to refusing to clean a wound. The resentment serves no purpose other than to let your emotional wounds fester, getting uglier and more sore by the day. Forgiving past mistakes may not be easy, but it's a healthy step towards allowing you to move on from constantly feeling hurt, betrayed, and angry. Negative emotions tend to capture the majority of our mind-space, and when we allow them to stay they can change our very physiology - affecting not just our mental health, but physical health too.
It is absolutely acceptable - and often healthy - to choose to let someone go if they've caused you harm, but allowing the actions of one person to influence your future behaviour in similar relationships is not. The act of forgiveness can give you a fresh start when it comes to similar situations in future; you will have the growth and knowledge of the past under your belt, but with a fresh attitude you're able to avoid behaviours that might serve you poorly.
For example, suppose your previous partner cheated on you - treating every future relationship with suspicion before they've done anything wrong is likely to breed an unhealthy dynamic and ultimately sabotage what could have been a solid foundation. Forgiveness of what you've experienced in the past can help you move positively into novelty.
Living in a constant state of resentment and anger increases stress, which is a well-known perpetrator when it comes to the quality of physical health. Forgiveness can lead to lower stress levels, which in turn can:
Lower blood pressure
Increase immune function
Not only has forgiveness shown to impact physical health positively, but it can also improve levels of confidence, self-esteem, and have a generally wholesome impact on your mental wellbeing.
Forgiveness is a virtue; one that we owe ourselves if we want to lead a life without being held back by our own bug-bears. It doesn't mean entering back into a relationship of any kind with those who have wronged you or condoning past transgressions, but it does mean that you can move into the future happier, healthier, and without the shadow of the past interfering with new connections.