Forgiving may save your life. It can certainly improve it on many levels, as doing so lowers stress levels that age us and lowers our immune function, gets in the way of healthy relationships, makes us less satisfied
with ourselves and our lives, and more.
How can this be so? By hanging on to resentment, bitterness, anger, revenge etc. you are giving power for your well-being over to the person who (you believe) wronged you. What a horrible thing to do to yourself: hurting yourself by making someone else responsible for your pain!
Forgiving often reduces stress levels, improves sleep, concentration and far more.
By deciding to take charge of your life, including when and how to forgive someone, you take back your power and instantly feel better! Then your anxiety and/or anger greatly reduces because that's what these emotions were likely trying to alert you to in the first place -showing you what you were doing! Once you regain power over yourself then your emotions quiet down. Then you are better able to handle situations, be grateful and/or positive, and resolve issues. See the page under anger for more on this.
Don't confuse forgiveness with forgetting. They are not the same. Memory serves a purpose; holding resentment, anger, bitterness and anger do not.
Once you've taken charge of your own life and forgiven someone this then opens the door for you to forgive yourself.
This is often harder! But forgiving yourself is very important if you want a more satisfying life.
Are you having difficulty forgiving your spouse or partner for having an affair? Affairs are usually a sign of marital difficulties. Working through it (which includes forgiveness) often results
in a stronger marriage! Many couples find it helpful to get professional help to guide them through this process.
Can forgiving someone make matters worse? Absolutely! For example: Forgiving an abusive spouse may actually contribute to more abuse unless s/he has first apologised and then taken concrete steps to improve.
Why? Because if you forgive before the other person makes meaningful changes then he or she may interpret your forgiveness as permission to continue abusing you! This is unhelpful for both of you (and any others who are affected).
What is the best way to respond to an abuser? Set healthy boundaries and let her or him know that this conduct is inappropriate and unacceptable. Remove yourself. Get support. Forgive only after real changes are initiated and sustained.
Once you have learned better what was happening inside that person when the other treated you poorly then you can have more empathy for him or her, forgive more easily, establish a stronger
relationship -and you get to function way better!
For more on how to resolve conflicts, see the related page here.
Want professional help? Don't be afraid to ask.
For high quality relationships and a life truly worth living.
Don't put it off any longer.
Link to Ian's profile on the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors website