Most of us know – in theory at least – that we ‘should’ forgive, and that there are benefits of forgiveness. What we don’t always appreciate is how forgiveness (and unforgiveness) works, and what a heavy burden unforgiveness can be.
Here’s my take on it.
When someone hurts us, whether it’s intentional or unintentional, and we don’t forgive them, it’s like carrying around a heavy burden. A friend of mine likened it to breaking your arm or wrist. You’re not sick (although there may be some real pain), but every thing takes twice as long, from getting dressed, to eating, to taking the kids to school or getting to work. Even after the pain passes, it’s frustrating, and limiting. Over the 6 weeks or so that you’re in plaster, you develop coping mechanisms, but everything is still so much more difficult.
Holding on to old feelings of resentment, anger, guilt shame, hurt, disappointment, or wanting to blame someone is just like that. You develop the coping mechanisms, but everything is that much more difficult.
On one level, we humans can be very fragile beings. Most of us are easily hurt by something someone says or does (or doesn’t say/do), even when the other person is completely unaware that they have hurt us. Then we find all sorts of excuses not to mention it to the other person. “It’s not that important”. “If they can’t see they’ve hurt me, I’m not going to tell them”. “Let’s not rock the boat”. “I just have to find the right moment”. When what’s actually going on is the fear of the possible consequences of telling them, like finding out they really did mean it, or harming the relationship, or getting hurt even more by them because they would know we are vulnerable.
And all the while we let the feelings of hurt etc fester, or eat us up.
Holding on to the resentment, hurt, anger and so forth acts like stress in the body. So it can lead to physical health problems like heart attacks, digestive illnesses, skin conditions or chronic pain. It can also lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, obsessive behaviour and PTSD, as well as substance abuse and other destructive and self-sabotaging behaviours.
I know from my own experience, and from that of my clients and students, that the more you practice forgiveness, even for the little things, the more your world opens up to joy and a sense of freedom. Forgiving is SO liberating. It’s as if all that worry and anxiety and nagging thoughts in your head which you were holding on to just evaporate. There’s space in your life and the energy flows. You feel a sense of peace, and closure.
And the great thing is that, if you use Ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian forgiveness process, you can do the forgiving inside your head, without even having to speak physically to the other person!
If you could use some help with forgiveness, please get in touch.