Forgive Someone: It’s Good For The Mind And Body

When children argue, parents encourage them to repair any hurt feelings, which can be done by an action as simple as saying “I’m sorry” or making an effort to resolve a conflict (for example, giving a toy back to a little sister after snatching it from her earlier). Basic acts such as these can make both unhappy parties feel better and provide a blueprint on how to get through a disagreement, however childish.

Learning to forgive someone, though, may not become easier as people get older. Life situations and differences get more complicated, especially within families. Certain slights and disagreements may be left unresolved. Somewhere along the way, we forget how to forgive.

I once went through a relationship that caused me pain. After not speaking to a friend for 10 years, I finally forgave him. The realization hit me upon seeing him again: I didn’t hurt anymore. My thoughts of him over the past decade always involved anger and hurt, but when we met after all that time, we laughed and laughed. It was a relief, for both of us, to move past our longtime differences.

Benefits of Forgiveness

There is ample evidence of the emotional benefits of forgiveness. Stanford Medicine discovered that people who were able to forgive someone felt less hurt and angry. Long-term studies show that these benefits, such as decreased rates of depression and anxiety, can last for up to a year, as the American Psychological Association (APA) explains.

For many, however, resentment runs deep, and getting to a point of forgiveness can take a great deal of effort. The first step is to acknowledge bad feelings, but it’s important to note that this is different than focusing on the offense. Instead, it’s simply admitting that whatever happened caused pain, anger, or sadness. Recognizing and wanting to get rid of those feelings can propel a desire to move forward.

You don’t have to condone what happened, but try to look past the offense and focus on the offender. Being able to understand their situation doesn’t mean that you have to justify what they did, but this thinking can remind you that you are dealing with another human being.

Let It Go

Forgiving someone is a choice that can provide you with inner strength; it’s not dependent on an apology from the offending party, though that can go a long way in helping. Forgiveness, however, is about repairing the damage from within and seeking relief from negative feelings. It can lead to greater compassion and understanding.

Forgiveness is also important to your well-being. The APA highlights the many emotional and physical benefits of forgiveness:

  • Healthier relationships.
  • Less stress and hostility.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • A stronger immune system.
  • Improved heart health.
  • Higher self-esteem.

In other words, forgiveness is good for you — and for everyone else.

Choosing to forgive frees you from the bad feelings that linger from a past disagreement. Remember that the act of forgiveness is not about the offender but instead directly concerns your emotions, as the one who was harmed. Getting to that moment takes time.

When you forgive someone, it benefits your mind and your body. You might even find yourself rekindling a relationship that you never expected.

Image source: Flickr

By: Crystal B. Shepeard