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5 Reasons Why It's Important to Forgive

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Out of the blue, I received a phone call a few days ago from an acquaintance of mine. I don’t speak to this person very frequently, so I was surprised to hear from her. She had a question about forgiveness and wanted my opinion. She had been struggling for much of her life with someone very close to her who had hurt her deeply. She went on to say that she believed that a serious illness she was suffering was a direct result in part of the harm that had been done to her and of the constant conflict emotionally and psychologically that she lived with.

Can you forgive someone who has hurt you so profoundly as to have caused deep-seated damage to your body, heart, mind, and soul? If so, what form would the forgiveness take? Does forgiving mean forgetting? How do you move on from the hurt and sorrow?

I’m sure most of you at one time or another have experienced a situation where you have felt that someone you cared enough about has caused you pain, anger, and sadness because of some kind of serious breach in your relationship. This could be due to an innocent misunderstanding or a contrived betrayal. When someone has done you wrong, can you work it through and get on with the relationship? Or has irreparable damage been done? What if you can’t walk away because the relationship is so personal, so intimate—think parent, siblings, spouse, or a once dear friend?

I spoke to this person from my own heart and from my experience, but I learned a lot from her about the consequences of not forgiving. What happens to a person when a hurt festers and grows? And then, I was surprised to hear (although maybe I shouldn’t have been) that there was the whole dynamic of holding on to hurt as a way of being. In other words, your hurt takes on a whole dynamic by which you live. How do you ever let that go? So many questions and issues.

I guess where I come out in all of this, and this is purely my opinion, is that finding forgiveness is an essential thing to do for your own well-being and for your future health and sanity. Here are five reasons why being able to forgive frees you to move on in your life.

When you forgive someone, you forgive yourself. That may sound like a nice little catchy phrase but it’s true. Bearing a grudge against someone who has hurt you is not just about what they have done to you. It’s about what you have allowed to happen to you. Sometimes you can’t help what happens to you in a relationship because you’re just going along doing what you do. You don’t always know when someone is angry with you, resentful of you, jealous of you—unless they tell you. And often they don’t until there’s a breaking point, often a betrayal, and it all comes out.

Forgiving yourself is allowing that you didn’t know, didn’t understand, didn’t act in a way that could have short-circuited the conflict. When you forgive yourself you allow resentment and hurt to be replaced by healing. You are taking an action that will course-correct your life and well-being.

Forgiving gets you out of victim mode. Forgiveness breaks the bonds that tie you negatively to another person. You can forgive while not forgetting. What happened to you happened. There’s no denying that. And you should not try to pretend that everything is back to normal. It isn’t. You may forgive someone and never choose to see them again. That’s your choice after all is said and done. It’s a matter of whether or not you can ever trust that person or set of circumstances again.

No longer a victim, no longer controlled by negative energy, you can focus on becoming stronger, on establishing your own integrity, on building your own character so that you know yourself well enough to never allow yourself to be caught in a situation of terrible compromise and pain.

Forgiveness frees you. It allows you to take your power back. The energy and emotion you have so deeply invested in a certain person/situation is now free to be moved to someone/something that is positive for your growth and emotional, psychological, and physical health. You are no longer chained to an entity that saps your energy and takes the life out of you. And freeing yourself may allow you to see this person/situation in a whole different light. Instead of focusing on all the negatives, forgiving may allow you to remember all of the positives that once were, and probably still are there.

Forgiveness helps your health. Negative emotions rob your energy and take a toll on your body, mind, and spirit. Anger, anxiety, depression, and undue stress generate a negative influence on your body. These can cause elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and the feeling of being out of control. The intensity can run the gamut, from mild discomfort to very intense physical reactions. Having someone you care about at odds with you is, at the very least, very uncomfortable. Most of us can relate to a feeling of relief when a weight is lifted from our shoulders. We breathe a sigh of relief.

Forgiving helps you move forward on your spiritual path. Forgiveness encourages compassion. You are able to relate to others as part of the human experience. You feel for others as you do for yourself. Emotionally and psychologically unencumbered, you can begin to put the past behind you. Forgiveness is an act of kindness and goodness. It is a path to peace.