Most people are more naturally better at forgiveness than others. But, if you are someone who tends to hold a grudge, then learning the skill of letting go of the resentment and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness is not forgetting or excusing the harm done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness is for you only and brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
Holding on to resentment toward others can significantly impact your own mental and physical health. I have even had clients who resented God or themselves for whatever has happened that doesn’t seem fair or “how it/life was supposed to be”.
Holding on to resentment puts your body in a chronic state of tension (chronic stress), which in turn increases inflammation and affects your immune system. When you run the scenario of someone who has wronged you, remind yourself of what it is doing to your body!
It often feels like you are taking control by holding on to resentment – that if you don’t forget, it won’t happen again. But what it is really doing is keeping you in a state of victim-hood and compromising your own well-being.
So, although I know it’s not an easy task to let go, you owe it to yourself to do so! Here are a couple of things you can do to help yourself let go…
- First, allow yourself to fully feel the pain. Research in integrative medicine shows that avoiding negative emotions is detrimental to the immune system. It’s important to acknowledge and make space for the feelings of hurt, anger, sadness or fear in order to get through it to the other side. An easy way to do this is to write a letter to the person(s) who you feel have wronged you. Get it all out on paper and feel the emotions fully. Then let it go by tearing the letter up and flushing it down the toilet or burning it in the fireplace or in a bonfire.
- Know that true forgiveness takes times. Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. Focus on making progress that adds up over time. With each new day, let go of a little more hurt and anger.
- Forgive yourself. It’s important to forgive yourself for any way you’ve allowed harm to come to you. Make sure you are not holding yourself responsible for any of the things that have happened or any wrong you think you may have caused others.
- Visualize letting go of your resentment. This is one of my favorite tools. Imagine forgiving your offender. Sit quietly and send a beam of loving, forgiving energy to the person(s) while telling them you forgive them. You may get some instant relief, though sometimes it can take doing this 10 times before you feel better.
- Use discernment when facing someone who has hurt you. If it’s a relationship you want to re-ignite long term, it’s going to require a conversation. So you have to do the forgiveness part first to diffuse the energy. Then you can think more clearly when addressing them. Just tell them how their actions (or lack of) made you feel, and what you hope to happen moving forward. Don’t even expect an apology, because that’s not the point. The point is you have already forgiven them and you just want to clear the air and move on in some way.
Debra Betterly, PhD is an Integrative Wellness & Life Coach and Metaphysician whose passion is to help women expand their health, joy and purpose in midlife and beyond.
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