Forgiveness: the choice that sets you free

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To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive peace and happiness. Robert Muller

Someone very close to me recently pointed out that the majority of movies we watch are mostly about revenge. In reality, when we hold onto a grudge and take revenge, we are only damaging ourselves as it entices anger and other negative emotions, which unnecessarily uses a lot of energy. As Buddah says: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”. Or this one by an anonymous (but wise!) source: “Hating someone is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.”

But how do we let go and forgive someone after we have been wronged?

Remember, your life and your emotions are made up of a series of decisions. You can choose to be angry and hold resentment or you can choose to forgive and move forward. Holding onto resentment initially is there as a coping mechanism, to protect us from further pain – short term it is healthy, but when it continues for a long period of time, it’s a problem.

Forgiveness is often hard to give because there is a big misconception in the world that if you forgive something then you condone what has happened, and has obviously hurt you. This isn’t the case and it doesn’t mean you need to forget what happened either. True forgiveness shows that your relationship with that person is more valuable than your ego. It means you have moved beyond the action and your mind is now clear so you can move forward.

The biggest changes generally have to come from within, so why not start by forgiving yourself before you move to forgive others.

Some benefits of forgiveness – it:
* Invokes love
* Releases stress and tension
* Rebalances your body chemistry
* Decreases use of medication
* Improves sleep quality and decreases fatigue
* Decreases aches and pains
* Strengthens spirituality
* Encourages better conflict management
* Improves relationships
* Is good for your heart: a study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief.
* Restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviours toward the offender
* Is associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity, and other altruistic behaviours.

How to forgive:
– Accept that your grudge doesn’t hurt the offender in the slightest
– Choose to use your negative emotions for positive and strive to move forward
– Make a list of all the good things that have happened as a result of this negative experience
– Turn to your friends for support
– Keep focussing on the bigger picture
– Be compassionate, everybody makes mistakes
– Identify an opportunity to demonstrate true forgiveness: retrain your thinking and wish the offender well
– Work out how you will undertake it, in your mind or with the person involved
– Follow through: forgive the person, but maintain perspective – you don’t need to become their best friend either
– Assess changes in your feelings over the next few days.

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