Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

The Truth About Forgiveness And Moving On

Heartbreak, Self

There is more to anger and resentment than meets the eye - forgiveness could save your life.

From betrayal by a loved one, to the range of injustice reported by the press, to tragic world events, it is our natural reaction to feel hurt, angry, resentful, indignant – and a variety of other negative emotions.

The idea of forgiving those whose actions are hurtful, unfair and even evil seems a tall order – and actually loving them is incomprehensible. Or is it? The truth is: the best option is to not only forgive all of the wrong-doings to yourself and those in the world in general, but to actually love them.

Now, I know that sounds ridiculous in addition to impossible, but if you bear with me, by the time you have finished reading this, you will understand why this is the best option, and you will also know HOW to do it!

The first step into understanding this concept is asking yourself the following three questions. These questions apply regardless of whether your anger, hurt and resentment is as a result of personal experience, terrible news stories, or world tragedies. 

1. What effect is your anger having on the situation? Will it improve, contribute to, or change the situation in any way?

2. What effect is your anger having on the guilty parties? Can you see a future result in which, in response to your anger, that person will say: “I’m sorry, you’re right, I shouldn’t have done that, and I won’t do it again.”?

3. What effect is your anger having on you?

The problem is: emotions are not just emotions, they are physiological states. When you feel an emotion, it is the chemicals that are being produced in your brain and body that give you the sensation of that emotion. Negative emotions produce stress hormones that are designed for life-or-death situations. 

They put the body into a state of emergency, which includes decreasing or switching off certain functions (including healing and digestion) in order for all focus to be aimed at escape and survival.

This is very useful when your life is being threatened; however, the body does not know the difference between an attack by a wild animal and thoughts about injustice or betrayal. The chemicals are the same. Our bodies are designed to withstand short periods of this emergency state; they are not designed to be in this state long-term.

By feeling angry, frustrated and resentful about a situation we keep our bodies in that state of emergency – which not only feels bad; it causes a range of physical damage.

By answering these three questions, it is clear that regardless of how bad the situation is, and regardless of how evil the perpetrators are, any kind of negative feelings towards them do nothing to change the circumstances or those who are responsible for them, but they do cause you to live in a state that not only feels bad but that is also damaging your body every minute you remain in that state.

Having answered these three questions, and knowing what you now know about what the chemicals from negative emotions do to your body, if you could flick a switch to change your feelings from anger to forgiveness, would you use it?

Since there isn't an actual switch, even though you now see the sense in forgiving and letting go, HOW do you do it? And what was that nonsense about love?!

When you consider the state your body goes into when you feel different emotions, it’s all about the chemicals. Negative emotions produce chemicals that, as they course through your bloodstream make you feel bad; and positive emotions product chemicals that make you feel good as the flood your bloodstream.

Feeling love is one of the most powerful feel-good chemical cocktails. Being in a state of love not only feels good; the chemicals that are produced in that state are healthy for the body – they help to lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease, and they help to boost the immune system and healing, along with a long list of additional benefits.

Okay, so, now you know why feeling love towards the “baddies” in the world makes sense since bad feelings do nothing to improve or change the situation or the people involved while love feels good and is good for your overall health; but HOW can anyone possibly feel love for those who betray them – not to mention the monsters in the world?

The trick is learning to get your body into the physiological state of love without needing to use your thoughts. You don’t need to agree with someone or condone something in order to get yourself into a state of love.

Being able to replace anger, hurt and resentment with love is simply a skill. It is a skill just like learning to ride a bicycle or play an instrument. It takes practice, and there are simple techniques that make it easier than you may think possible.

You can learn these techniques from my website, my book “You Have a Superpower” or by attending one of my live sessions to practice in person. It really is worth it – you will see an improvement in all areas of your life from developing just this one skill.


Explore YourTango