When we have people in our lives, ourselves included, that we are unable to forgive, our bodies respond the same way they do to stress. Just about every body system is affected: blood flow decreases, muscles tense, digestion slows, the immune system does work optimally, etc, etc. The worst part about it is, the person you are not forgiving, is most likely continuing to live their life without these problems. I once heard an analogy that relates not forgiving to wrapping your arms around a tree. The tree will continue to grow and flourish,but until you let go of the tree, you are stuck in the same place. For those who believe in the New Testament of the Bible, we are taught that we MUST forgive others (Luke 6:37).
Of course, telling you to forgive others is much easier than doing it and some things are easier to forgive than others. Some where along the lines we were taught that forgiveness means to forget. Dictionary.com defines "forgive" as ceasing to feel resentment towards or a pardon for an offense/debt/etc. The word forget is no where in the definition. For me, that makes forgiving, at least for more serious offenses, much easier. Of course, if you have truly forgiven someone, you would not want to constantly be throwing it in their face, but, depending on the offense, you may want to slowly let your guard down instead of just dropping it all at once. If your trust was violated, that trust will need to be regained, but first you have to forgive the peron so that you are ready to allow them to regain your trust.
Some things to keep in mind when someone has hurt or offended us:
- People are the way they are and they often do not realize they may have hurt you and usually did not intend to. I have a relative who just does not invite people over. As we were growing up she seemed to have certain relatives over much more than she had us over. My mom indirectly taught us it must have been because she liked the other relatives better. As an adult, I realized she liked us all the same, she just did not extend invitations and the other relatives would invite themselves over. Of course, it would be nice to be invited over once in a while, but that is how she is and I cannot change her. Our relationship has grown tremendously since I realized this.
- Do not wait for the person to "know" what they did to hurt you, especially if they are the opposite gender. Communication is important and if you are waiting for them to figure out why you are suddenly so moody, you may be waiting a long time. People, especially across the genders, communicate very differently from one another. Women tend to be more subtle and will "beat around the bush", while men tend to be more direct and will tell it like it is. Without understanding this, feelings can continue to be hurt as the woman gets more hurt that the man just doesn't know what he did wrong. Sometimes, you just have to tell them.
- It is not just others we have to forgive. We often have to forgive ourselves. Are you beating yourself up for choices you have made in the past? Ask yourself these questions: Do you really wish you had chosen differently? Can you do anything to change the outcome? If the answers are yes, do what you can and move on. If you cannot change the outcome or you realize that maybe you did make the right decision in the first place, look at the good that came from that decision and move on. The point is, don't dwell on the past and things you cannot change. If you can change what is making you unhappy, do it, don't dwell on it. Also, don't be so hard on yourself in everyday things. You are not perfect and it is ok. Just try better next time and forgive yourself for not being perfect.
No one on this earth is perfect. We all make mistakes at some point and often those mistakes affect others. To hold it against someone, especially someone who is truly sorry for having hurt you, is not only unfair, it hurts you too. I encourage you to look at all the people in your life and find at least one, even if it is yourself, that you are holding some sort of grudge against, no matter how small, and forgive them. I promise you will feel a burden lifted off your shoulders and you will experience a deeper relationship with that person.