The desire to get revenge is a natural instinct and a normal response when someone wrongs you. No one wants to feel like they let a culprit “get away with it”. Our natural sense of self-protection compels us to act in order to avoid feeling vulnerable as if there is nothing we can do to right the wrong. However, forgiving someone doesn’t make you a pushover, and it’s not about letting the other person “off the hook”. Instead, forgiveness is about overcoming your anger and quelching your desire to punish the other person.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it makes me feel better.”
Not true. Contemplating about how to “get pay back” has a negative impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Studies show that focusing on revenge increases stress, inhibits mental functions, and weakens the immune system; the negative emotions that you harbor do more harm to yourself than the person who offended you. Conversely, practicing forgiveness has been linked to lower blood pressure, reduced fatigue, and an improved quality of sleep.
Being a forgiving person doesn’t suggest or imply being foolish; as the saying goes, forgive but don’t forget. By letting go of grudges or ill will you are simply refusing to react in a destructive way; but, that doesn’t mean subjecting yourself to further mistreatment. You can forgive someone and still call the police, testify in court, or love them from a distance.
The problem for many of us is that sometimes we claim to forgive a person, but deep down the anger or resentment lingers. Here are five effective ways that you can genuinely forgive someone and truly let go of the disappointment, pain, or grudge that you’re holding onto.
1. Keep it in Perspective
Be honest about the root of your anger without exaggerating the situation or rearranging the details. Acknowledge how the anger is affecting your well-being and disrupting your day-to-day life. Are you consumed or distracted by negative thoughts? Are you less productive? Is it really worth it?
2. Re-write the StoryPracticing forgiveness is difficult when you see yourself as a victim. Re-write the story to cast yourself in a more empowered role. Focus on the awareness you’ve gained and the strengths you’ve developed as a result of the situation; you’re the survivor of difficult circumstances and the hero of your own story.
3. Recognize Their Shortcomings
Ask yourself what personal experiences or character flaws may have caused the person you’re angry with to treat you poorly? For example, an abusive person may have been a victim of abuse. Although you shouldn’t accept or excuse their behavior, recognizing their shortcomings gives you a reason to forgive.
4. Address Your FeelingsConflict often arises out of misunderstanding or miscommunication; maybe you “took it the wrong way” or the person actually had good intentions. If you can’t address the problem with the person directly, vent to someone you can trust, or write your thoughts in a journal to purge the negative emotions.
5. Own the SituationDon’t get mad; don’t get even; just get on with your life. The best revenge is when you move forward despite attempts to set you back. You can’t control other people, but you can control how you respond. Don’t give them the satisfaction of pushing your buttons or making you stoop to a lower level.
Some situations and behaviors are easier to forgive and less consequential than others. For example, a little white lie has less impact than a false testimony that landed you in jail or a theft that depleted your finances. In more extreme situations, it may be best to seek professional help.
Care Matters offers support, counseling, and resources to help you overcome difficult circumstances and everyday stressors. If you feel like the situation is more than you can handle, contact us by calling 248-691-9034 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.