Most of us have probably at some point been hurt by someone by their actions or words, right? Maybe you were betrayed by a partner, maybe a family member did something hurtful or perhaps you were subjected to verbal abuse. Anger or resentment from these experiences are normal, maybe you even thought about how to get your revenge. I know I have. The bitterness or thoughts of vengeance are, however, not helpful. After experiencing bullying in school, I used to imagine how I would revenge those who did it. I could repeat it over and over in my head, or come up with new ideas on how I would make them suffer the most. This went on for quite some time, but at some point, I realized that no matter how much pain and anger I felt, it would not affect the bullies. For my own peace of mind – but without thinking that what happened was in any way acceptable – I had to let the anger go. I accepted that it had happened, without thinking what they did was okay.
Of course, hurting people can come in many shapes and forms. It can be about someone saying something, doing something or not doing something. The people doing this might do so with the purpose to be mean, or they may not even know that they are hurting others.
We all need to detach ourselves from the negative situations or relationships that are holding us back. Hurting others, or revenging, will not help us move forward in a positive way. Forgiving others for what they have done will set you above them. I do know that forgiving is easier said than done, I am not sure I have fully forgiven the bullies, but I have decided to think about them as a weak people who simply did not know better. Thinking about them as the weak ones made me able to move on and stop feeling resentment. That is the first step toward forgiveness. That said, I would never want to see or speak to them again. The point is that I am not letting the unproductive anger steer my mind anymore. And it certainly does not mean that I think what they did was acceptable. Forgiving is not about thinking that what someone has done to you is acceptable, forgiving is about freeing yourself from that person’s actions. It is not about forgetting, either. It simply means that what happened is no longer relevant moving forward, except the life lessons it may have taught you. You will no longer let that person and situation negatively impact your life. Forgiveness will help you heal.
If you hold on to the anger or bitterness, you might find yourself bringing those feelings into your new relationships. You can be so consumed by these negative thoughts that you can’t enjoy the present, become anxious or depressed and even think that your life lacks meaning or purpose. To forgive, or practice acceptance, we need to understand how forgiveness or acceptance can positively affect your life from now on. We need to identify who needs to be forgiven and what exactly it is that they did.
Make a choice to forgive, or begin with acceptance to release the anger. You need to know that you are in control of this, you are no longer a victim and you are releasing the control or power that the person had over you. Detach yourself from the negative situations or people who are holding you back.
Forgiving is not about making what someone did to you acceptable, forgiving is about freeing yourself from that person’s action. It is not about forgetting, either. What that person did is simply no longer relevant – except that it taught you a life lesson. You will no longer let that person or situation negatively impact your life. Someone once said that holding resentment and bitterness is like drinking poison while expecting the other person to get ill.
Know that forgiving is a process and it will not happen overnight. Don’t be disappointed with yourself if it takes time. It’s normal. Forgiveness is important for your mental health and can help you move forward. Studies have shown that it can enhance your optimism, boost your mood and works as a kind of guard against stress (like cortisol and adrenaline), anxiety, depression and anger.
However, in some cases forgiveness might not be the best solution. Some studies suggest that victims of sexual abuse can be more empowered when they allow themselves not to forgive the perpetrator, but that is something way deeper than what this article is about and I won’t go into it here. My advice is for people who have experienced hurtful words and actions. I am not an expert in forgiveness when it comes to traumatic experiences, and I know that abuse is a lot harder to forgive (and perhaps shouldn’t be forgiven).
Remember to also forgive yourself for the bad things you might have done. And make sure you don’t easily forgive anyone or anything, as that could be a sign of not standing up for oneself.
Simply wanting to forgive or experience acceptance is the step in the right direction of healing and the direction of living your life more peacefully.
A peaceful mind is the way to a happier life. Don’t you agree?