The power of forgiveness - LIFESTRUCK


The famous 17th century English poet Alexander Pope was quoted as saying "To err is human, to forgive, divine". Essentially, he was capturing the difficulty and rarity of forgiveness, so much so that perhaps only God can truly forgive. Many if not all of us carry some hurts from our past. We've all had some hurtful experiences during our childhood, or a broken heart or two as we got older, been the victim of a mean word or action, or been treated unjustly. So why is it so hard to get over those hurts, to forgive the perpetrator - whether they intended to hurt us or not - and to move on?

Well, as Alexander Pope so clearly says, to err is human. We are all only humans, so we will continue to make mistakes, continue to hurt others, and continue to be hurt by others. And being humans, we also hold onto those hurts and slights against us because sometimes we want revenge, and other times because we don't know what else to do with them. I'm still angry with a kid at primary school called Chad who was quite a bully, and made the younger kids' lives hell. I'm talking more than 25 years ago! I still get annoyed with him and play out fantasy conversations where I challenge him on his behavior back then and demand an apology for us all. The problem with this, naturally, is that Chad isn't holding onto that experience at all. He's probably got little or no recollection of what an ass he was in primary school. So I'm the one carrying this hurt around - UNNECESSARILY!

Forgiveness is good for your health, as an interesting article on the IDEA Health & Fitness Association's website says. Studies have proven that forgiveness leads to reduced stress and an increase in happiness. This is because holding onto hurts and the resulting anger and pain result in negative health issues such as increased blood pressure and high adrenalin and cortisol levels. These are linked to cardiovascular disease and problems with the immune system, which can both lead to further health issues.

Forgiveness is good for your social relationships, as people who forgive (and hopefully forget) are more likely to have stronger and happier relationships with others including their partners. This leads to a happier home and work environment, and increased social connectivity. People who don't forgive and hold onto their pains and hurts caused by others tend to isolate themselves eventually, becoming lonelier and unhappier. No one wants to live an unhappy and lonely life just because you can't forgive. It's not easy but it is worth it.

The IDEA article gives some clear steps for forgiveness, which are thorough and helpful. But even more helpful is their summary of what forgiveness is, and isn't:

Forgiveness is . . .

•making yourself responsible for how you feel.

•about your healing, not about the people in your life who have hurt you.

•learning to take wrongs less personally.

•becoming a hero instead of a victim in the story.

•a trainable skill, just like learning to throw a baseball.

•a choice.

Forgiveness is not . . .

•forgetting that something painful happened.

•excusing or condoning the poor behavior.

•an otherworldly or religious experience.

•denying or minimizing your hurt.

•necessarily reconciling with the offender.

•waiving the right to justice or compensation.

•hanging the offenders behavior; even if you change, the other person might not.

I hope you can forgive and move on from some hurts and burdens you are carrying around preventing you from enjoying a happy life!