As we are upon the seasonal holidays with Thanksgiving recently passed, I want to address forgiving as a means to emotional well being. Forgiving can free oneself from negativity because not forgiving brings about old anger, resentment, guilt, and general unhappiness.
Forgiveness comes in the form of self-forgiveness or can be in the form of forgiving others such as loved ones, co-workers, friends, and even deceased family members. How do we go about learning to forgive? Here are a few suggestions:
- Decide to forgive by being honest with yourself. You need to be ready to let emotions go by consciously deciding to forgive. Acknowledge your part of the problem and perhaps how you may have contributed to it. Forgiving is a process and it requires you to assume responsibility for your own current emotions and behaviors. What thoughts are you replaying in your head that are contributing to not forgiving?
- Decide to change your thinking from not forgiving to forgiving. You are the one being hurt by your non-forgiveness. You only upset yourself today with thinking about yesterday’s infractions. You carry the anger, hurt, resentment, etc. within you. You give control of your emotions to the one who hurt you by holding onto grudges and having resentments. Release yourself from being a self-afflicted victim. Forgive yourself verbally for anything you are doing or saying that contributes to any hurt or resentment.
- Understand the injustice or hurt by remembering it. Understand that forgiving does not mean forgetting, or saying what was done to you was acceptable. Recall the outcome of the hurt, injury, broken relationship, material losses, or emotional/physical setbacks.
- Make a list of what actually caused the pain and list what actions you need to forgive. Express forgiveness for each hurt, one by one. List the benefits you gain from forgiving.
In closing, forgiving yourself or another is hard work and it can take a long time, but through forgiveness one may find a better sense of peace during the holiday season.
Gary Kozick, LCSW
Originally appeared in the Arbor Terrace: A Senior Living Residence monthly newsletter, December 2011)