Self, Health And Wellness

Why Forgiveness Is Important For Your Own Self-Care (And 4 Steps To Help You Forgive Someone)

Photo: Yifei Chen via Unsplash
What Is Forgiveness? How To Let Go Of Anger And Forgive Someone For Your Own Self-Care

By Shreyasi Debnath

'We think that forgiveness is a weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.' – T. D. Jakes

T. D. Jakes take on forgiveness clearly states why sometimes one needs to learn how to forgive.

Practicing forgiveness is not everyone’s cup of tea.

RELATED: Is It Possible To Truly Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Deeply?

“You are wrong, I am right”

Humans are eternally flawed just as Alexander Pope said, ‘To err is human’.

In your lifetime, you surely have been wronged by one person who you couldn’t forgive yet. 

Be it your friend, your colleague, your ex-partner, or even your parents, letting go of the pain they inflicted on you is definitely not legitimate.

When you recall the entire context, you know for sure you do not need any logical justification to move on from the resentment and bitterness you hold against that person. 

You know they are wrong and you are innocent. That is all you need to perpetuate the grudge that you hold towards them.

You are not generally unaware of the counter-productivity of negative emotions that you hold against the offender, but you are not ready to give away your victim mentality.  

Every time you try justifying their behavior, you end up justifying yours. 

In a context where you know that you have been wronged, betrayed, manipulated, cheated on, or worse still emotionally abused and victimized, it’s justified for you to be vengeful. 

In fact, for you, the only possible way to punish the perpetrator is to never forgive him/her.

As trivial as the perpetration might be, the core belief behind being unable to forgive is that forgiving will lead to us condoning the actions of the offender, subtly giving them the cue that they have the power to mess with people’s lives and get away with it. 

On the other side, it makes the victim feel powerless to let go of the offender without punishing them. 

But here’s the twist.

Why forgive?

Forgiveness is a process in which an offended person undergoes a voluntary modification in their attitude, conception, and feelings towards the offender, which results in the abandonment of negative feelings like hatred, vengefulness, and aggression towards the offender to replace it with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

But why wish offenders well? Why forgive their malicious intent and accept them as they are?

It’s about you and not them.

When we are hurt by someone, hoping for the person’s well-being is the last thing that comes to our mind.

The initial, immediate response to being wronged is to wish the person suffering, sorrow, discontentment, and emotional turmoil. 

We often tell ourselves “I wish this person faces the same things that he/she made me go through.” “He/she should taste a dose of karma.” “I wish this person suffers as much as I did.”

We lose our rationale as we are overcome with anger, frustration, and extreme aggression towards this particular person. 

We mistakenly start believing that every time we silently curse them, wish them ill-being, plan revenge on them, or withhold affection, we are actually being in control and are successful in ‘punishing’ the other person for their deed. 

We believe the more we delay forgiveness, the harsher will be the lesson they learn.

But as James E. Faust says, “Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours.”

Ask yourself, are those suppressed, dysregulated negative emotions that are slowly spreading bitterness within you, very constructive?

Is it making you feel better over time? Or is it making you lose your mental peace?

Perpetually holding on to the bitterness constantly reminds you of the wrong that was done to you, which, in turn, significantly degrades a person’s mental health. 

Prolonged periods of holding on to negative emotions can cause profound stress, which over the long run, significantly diminishes the efficiency of the immune system.

As Joan Lunden says, "Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life."

The more you hold on to grudges, the more you destroy yourself. 

RELATED: 6 Ways To Ask For Your Wife's Forgiveness When You've Seriously Messed Up

Letting your emotions and actions be influenced by the offender’s actions results in the worst possible situation – it gives the offender the power to control you. 

Forgiveness helps you regain control over yourself as you let go of the arrogant resentment clinging on to you. 

Always remember that withheld anger is like a fire that chars you from within while it was meant to char someone else. 

Forgiveness is crucial, not for the person who did you wrong, but for yourself.

When you finally let go of the toxicity and bitterness you were holding back, you finally let yourself breathe freedom.

Forgiveness gives you exultation and a chance to un-cage yourself from your own rancor.

So, forgiving the person is not about losing your self-respect, power, or control, but rather about restoring positivity back to your life.

Robin S. Sharma says, “Forgiveness isn’t just a blessing you deliver to another human being. Forgiveness is also a gift you give yourself.”

How do you go about forgiving someone?

Forgiving someone might take time and effort. 

But don’t forget, you are doing it for yourself, not for the other person (the other person doesn’t really care if you forgive him/her or not!).

The following are 4 tips that might help you let go of things for a lighter future:

1. Introspect

Forgiveness is a voluntary action, but it should be internally motivated.

Nobody else can force you to forgive someone. It should organically come from within yourself.

Ask yourself…

  • How do I really want to feel?
  • Am I secretly enjoying this bitterness inside me?
  • Does this anger, hatred, and frustration towards the concerned person make me feel contented?
  • What kind of a person am I?
  • What are my values?
  • Why am I giving in to negative emotions?
  • Do I want to hold grudges against the person just to feel in control or let go and be happy?

Introspection helps you tap the root cause of you holding on to the bitterness as it fosters self-awareness and understanding of our behavior, actions, and attitudes.

RELATED: 7 Devastating Lies About Forgiveness That Keep You From Healing

2. Thank the offenders for the lesson

Having a disappointing experience from a person you trust isn’t the best feeling in the world.

Every coin is two-sided, so is every bad experience.

Forgiveness becomes easier when you take the offender’s actions in a positive light.

Be thankful to the person who has taught you a lesson in life. 

And it is because of him/her that you could learn from your mistakes and never repeat them again. 

It just helped you move a step closer to resilience.

3. Step out of your victim mentality

The easiest thing to do is blame others and circumstances for everything that happens to you.

Stop for a while and peek within. Whining, complaining, cursing, and planning revenge doesn’t solve anything.

Instead, take accountability and responsibility for your choices.

When you start accepting the fact that you control your life and you have the power to make better choices of forgiving and moving on, you will gradually start witnessing change. 

4. Give up on being ‘right’

People who try to be too strict with what is right and what is wrong will never be able to forgive a ‘wrongdoer’. 

You have to know that your happiness is more important than your need to be a perfectionist. 

Let go of your past as no matter what means you take, you cannot change it. 

You can only make wise choices for the present.

However, I would like to add that certain behaviors (rape of any form, sexual abuse, sexual harassment at workplace, domestic violence, homicide, bullying) are illegal and need to be dealt by the jurisdiction. 

Forgiveness is never an option if you are a victim of such behaviors.

But, this also doesn’t give you the pass to take things in your hand.

The legal authority is responsible for dealing with such issues.

All you can do is keep your fighting spirit alive to establish justice.

Forgiveness teaches you to be selfless, empathetic, and self-loving.

And it is one of the most powerful resources available to you. 

RELATED: Why It's Crucial For Your Happiness To Forgive Yourself (And 5 Steps You Need To Take)

Shreyasi Debnath is a writer who focuses on self-care, self-love, and relationships. For more of her self-love content, visit her author profile on The Mind's Journal. 

This article was originally published at The Mind's Journal. Reprinted with permission from the author.