More than simply letting another person off the hook, forgiveness means saying goodbye to the pain, frustration and stress that harboring resentment brings. Keep in mind that when you forgive someone, you are not condoning wrongful behavior; rather, you are making peace with the situation.
Once you’ve told someone else that it’s okay, you’ll banish negative feelings and be free to focus on the things that are important to you. What a relief it will be to let go of anger, a dangerous emotion that can aggravate high blood pressure and keep muscles tense.
Whether you forgive a spouse, a family member, an old boss or a stranger at the grocery store, take the time to validate your emotions. Ask yourself:
- Why do you feel hurt?
- Did this person mean to cause you pain?
- What are all the possible reasons this happened?
- Did you contribute to the situation?
- Does the person know you are hurt?
Questions like these will help you accept what has happened and help you learn from the experience.
You may even be able to restore an old friendship once you realize that laughter and love can heal pain. One study shows that relationships that foster forgiveness are stronger and that the partners find the relationship more satisfying.
Of course, to reap the benefits of forgiveness, the first person you need to let off the hook is yourself. Everybody makes mistakes. Once you acknowledge your own errors and ask forgiveness from those you have hurt, you will find it easier to forgive others.