Forgiveness is a topic that is regularly discussed in my private practice. Anger, hurt and disappointment at a loved one is a strong motivator to seek counseling.
If you are smarting from a recent breakup or divorce, many of you are still coming to terms with your feelings about your ex. There is a good chance that no matter how your relationship ended, you endured a lot of distress during the process.
Most therapists, myself included, suggest trying to feel some compassion for those who have hurt us – as anger can eat away at our core. Yet, many people feel that forgiveness is not in their repertoire. One woman recently told me, “If you cross me, you are history!” Yet others firmly believe that forgiveness was key to letting go and moving on with their lives.
Forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go of unpleasant feelings about someone who has hurt you. It’s about releasing the anger, resentment, and the thoughts of revenge. It’s about reaching deep into your heart, and discovering some degree of empathy, or, better yet, understanding for the person that has caused you pain. This doesn’t mean you have to exonerate or minimize what they have done to hurt you – but it’s about being able to look past those transgressions and say, “Yes, I can forgive this person.” Believe it or not, uttering those words can really help you get on with your life.
If you are contemplating forgiveness, here are five pieces of advice to consider:
Think of forgiveness as a gift to yourself – There is much research out there stating that holding on to anger and pain raises our cortisol levels, which is hazardous to our mental and physical health. Once we let go and breathe, our body and our mind resets back to normal.
Leave your ego at the door – Many of us hold onto anger because our ego has been bruised. I suggest examining this concept, and if it fits, put your ego aside and then revisit the conflict with a fresh head. You may be surprised what you’ll discover.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – There is a reason that someone treated you as they did. Even if you don’t agree with their motives, try to consider why they behaved as they did. Understanding their perspective can make a huge difference.
You’ll be proud of yourself! – Forgiveness can be extremely useful to any woman’s recovery. It can accelerate your healing. If you challenge yourself to look past the anger, the bitterness, the disappointment – you may surprisingly find yourself in a much better frame of mind.
Forgiving the person who hurt you is extremely powerful – It’s a huge investment of consciousness and the rewards can be so profound when we discover that we are capable of going beyond ourselves and doing something that feels pretty foreign, but is in fact quite virtuous.
I have made a deliberate effort to forgive every person who has ever hurt me. We are all imperfect and I don’t desire to go through life carrying resentments on my back – it serves no meaningful purpose.