August 4, 2015

Why Forgiveness?

Yesterday was National Forgiveness Day. I know this because it came across my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter feed. I thought that would make a great idea for a blogpost and turned to Google to research it a bit more.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only was yesterday National Forgiveness Day but also June 26th, July 7th, August 7th, and October 27th and 31st. It seems to me that everyday is National Forgiveness Day. Or should be.

There is a stigma around forgiveness that the person who forgives is weak. Many people believe that by forgiving a person you are rubber stamping the behavior you are mad at. I experienced this many years ago during my divorce. I was angry at my (then) wife for cheating on me. I did not want to endorse her behavior or actions, so I remained angry for a very long time. During that time I was diagnosed with severe depression and moderate anxiety. Therapy and medication helped me assimilate back into society, but did nothing to alleviate the anger I was feeling.

In the years after my divorce I started reading a lot of personal development and spiritual books. I don't know where I read it but the concept of forgiveness as healing came up. At first I scoffed at the idea. My pain made sure I never made the same mistake again! My anger protected me from people who wanted to take advantage of me! By reading I learned that forgiveness did not mean you endorsed behavior and invited into your life. By forgiving you are stating you are not in control of the other person's behavior.

When you practice forgiveness you are seizing control of your own life. When you do not forgive a person's behavior you are allowing that person to control you. You allow them to live rent free in you brain. Your life is not your own because every decision you make is influenced by the other person's behavior you will not forgive. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

Let me repeat that. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Not only will you be able to move on but according to the Mayo Clinic there are many benefits to practicing forgiveness:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

Without practicing forgiveness you will not move on from the challenges you are facing. You will always be chained to the person and their behavior. Even if you are no longer with them they will haunt you like Jacob Marley's ghost.

Here are some ways to practice forgiveness.

  1. Write it down. Grab and paper and write all your feelings down. Write a letter to the person or simply write it in your journal. Be sure to exorcise all the demons you are feeling in your writing. I have a friend who keeps a journal for this express purpose.
  2. Actively choose to forgive. Taking proactive steps and choosing to forgive (when you are ready) is using your Personal Power and showing that you are in control of your own actions and life.
  3. Say it out loud. Similar to number two and perhaps an outgrowth of it. Just say, "I forgive (person) for (the behavior or action that hurt you)." There is immense power in speaking the words out loud and letting them go.
  4. Move away from the victim mentality. Release the control the person who hurt you has over you. Start to think of yourself as a powerful person in control of your own life. 

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