What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go of feelings of anger or resentment harbored toward a person who has committed a wrong.

•    When forgiving, it is not necessary that one also reconciles with the offender who caused hurt or harm.  It is possible to forgive someone without minimizing or denying the offense committed.
•    When another person causes significant harm, either deliberately or accidentally, true forgiveness can be a challenge.
•    The manner in which a person is able to forgive others depends partially on that individual’s definition of forgiveness.
•    It is possible for a person to forgive someone by developing empathy for that person. For others, forgiveness is simply the act of moving past a slight and not holding a grudge, while for still others, the process of forgiving requires repairing the relationship.

The benefits of forgiveness

•    Studies suggest that an inability or unwillingness to forgive can create a negative impact on one’s mental health and well being, often contributing to conditions such as depression and anxiety.
•    The personal benefits of forgiveness have been shown to be positive and may include an increased sense of life satisfaction, improved self-esteem and self-image, greater physical well being, and healthier relationships with others.
•    When we feel happier we are less likely to experience negative health effects of stress and are often able to resolve conflicts more easily.
•    We may experience higher levels of empathy and more positive feelings toward people in general.
•    We may have a higher level of resistance to illness than those who hold grudges, as studies show people who hold grudges may be more likely to have a compromised immune system.

Forgiveness of the self

•    Forgiveness does not only involve others, it also involves forgiveness of the self.
•    Forgiving the self for an act of wrongdoing, either real or perceived.  Those who have made choices and decisions that they later regretted may have a difficult time forgiving themselves.
•    People tend to hold themselves to higher levels of accountability than they do other people.   As a result, they may struggle to forgive themselves following wrongdoing that they would forgive another person who committed a similar wrongdoing against them.
•    Research shows that those who do forgive themselves readily for making mistakes may experience a reduction in empathy resulting in feeling less inclined to make amends to the victim. Self-forgiveness may be most effective and beneficial when it includes careful reflection on one’s mistake, admission of one’s mistake, and empathy for the victim
•    Harboring feelings of anger and resentment can lead to a decrease in emotional and physical well being. Forgiving oneself is an important process, although it may take time. When one has difficulty with self-forgiveness, issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress may result, and these conditions may cause physical ailments such as high blood pressure, pain, and fatigue or lead to self-harm.  An individual who maintains a grudge against the self may be more likely to engage in risky and dangerous behavior (i.e. substance abuse).

Forgiveness is the key to healing and emotional well-being.  A key benefit of forgiveness is lessening or eliminating the burdensome emotions connected to the person you are forgiving.

If you need help working on forgiveness, please call our Intake Department at Specialized Therapy Associates 201-488-6678, or schedule an appointment online