The Benefits of Forgiveness

The benefits of forgiveness

Words by Jen Woodward

When someone hurts or disregards us we carry feelings of anger and bitterness for a long time. It’s natural, even important, to feel some anger – if we don’t we might be repressing the pain. However, holding on to bitterness unnecessarily, it eats away at our core and breeds resentment, eventually we must get rid of these negative feelings and let go.

A recent study found that forgiveness is related to overall life satisfaction. Forgiveness within our romantic relationships leads to a happier partnership. When we forgive ourselves, we go some way to improving our mental health. Forgiveness of those that you have difficult relationships with, perhaps at work, or in your social circle, may have health benefits. Anxiety, blood pressure, stress and depression are all potentially eased when a grudge is left behind. The capacity to forgive, relies on an awareness of our common humanity. It’s something we need to find within ourselves. Forgiveness is a choice, it’s actively releasing the desire to punish your self or someone else for an offence. Here are seven steps to help you along the path of forgiveness.

Steps to forgiveness

Decide that you want to forgive and believe that you can

You have to want to forgive; it’s an active process that you need to choose to embark on. The anger that usually accompanies feeling of resentment hurts us more than the other person. Reflecting on and processing your feelings allows for moments of personal growth and transformation. The benefits of forgiveness are many, but it’s up to you whether you want to move on and let go.

Remember that everyone is doing the best they can

Most people don’t try and hurt others. And those that do are probably feeling deep pain themselves. Coming back to this truth helps us to see this person’s humanity instead of demonising them. Perhaps, try and figure out what reasons the person you’re feeling angry at might have had to make the choices they made. Even if you can’t understand it, work on trusting that they did the best for them.

Forgiving others is difficult, forgiving ourselves is perhaps even harder. If you’re angry at yourself, think and say out loud over and over again “I did the best I could with the information I had at the time.”

Accept that you can only control yourself

Notice whether you’re wishing that someone did what you wanted them to do. With a shift in mindset you can leave behind the feeling that others should behave in a certain way. You might be in pain because someone went back on their word or changed their mind. When we feel pain in relation to another person, we often feel disempowered. Bringing the awareness back to yourself and how you can grow will help you develop and learn from your experiences.

Once you’ve worked through these steps you can move on to the forgiving. Make sure you’ve explored the previous steps though, otherwise these won’t feel authentic.

Sit and do a meditation

A powerful technique - make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Imagine the person you’re angry at in front of you, visualise a small pinprick of light in the centre of your heart, it’s radiating love and light. Visualise it expanding gradually, engulfing your body, then radiating onto the other person, swallowing them too. Imagine your heart is sending the other person love, and they are sending more love back. Try and do this for at least five minutes on a regular basis. This exercise allows us to understand love is abundant, if you love it comes back to you even more.

Don’t think or speak negatively about the person you’re feeling resentment towards

Use the techniques below every time you think of something negative, speaking about someone from an angry place just fuels those hateful feelings.

Say it out loud

Whenever they pop into your head, shift your mindset by saying out loud “I forgive you, NAME” and imagine them being at peace and completely happy with themselves. You may find it difficult at first, but gradually this resistance will release.

Let it go

The resistance we may feel is because we are reluctant to release our pain, for fear if we forget it, our hurt won’t mean anything. Say out loud “I release you, NAME.”

Healing and forgiveness are a process; we do a bit of the work and feel better but at some point we feel all the hurt again. We can then go through the whole process again, and that’s ok. Not feeling hurt is of course our ideal, but these feelings create opportunities for growth if we allow them to be. By processing hurt, reflecting inwardly and releasing our pain we make progress in our own transformation.

If all else fails, and you aren’t quite ready to let that grudge go, embrace and own it. Sophie Hannah publishes a Grudge of the Week, submit your story to if you’d like your story to be shared and analysed.

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Jen Woodward is a psychodynamic therapist and writer in Leeds. She reflects on feelings, life and being human. You can find out more about Jen and her work over on her website. website.

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