When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.
When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.
Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
What is forgiveness?
Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
• Healthier relationships
• Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
• Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
• Lower blood pressure
• Fewer symptoms of depression
• Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:
• Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
• Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
• When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
• Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don’t want to?
If you haven’t reached a state of forgiveness, being near the person who hurts you might be tense and stressful. To handle these situations, remember that you can choose to attend or avoid specific functions and gatherings. Respect yourself and do what seems best. If you choose to attend, don’t be surprised by a certain amount of awkwardness and perhaps even more intense feelings. Do your best to keep an open heart and mind. You might find that the experience helps you to move forward with forgiveness.
What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?
Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You’re human, and you’ll make mistakes. If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically, ask for forgiveness — without making excuses. Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.
Have you ever felt angry and didn’t want to speak to someone ever again for hurting your feelings? It’s a common scenario: someone says something that’s rude, wrongly accuses us of doing something wrong, or in some other way makes us get reactive or defensive.
This can take us to the point where we most certainly don’t want to wish them well. But does harboring dislike, revenge, even hate, do us any favors? Does it really make us feel better in the long run or does it just get us more stressed?
It’s definitely important that we acknowledge what we are feeling—all the anger, unfairness, and aversion—and really honor how hurt we are. Repressing our feelings means they’ll most likely just come up again at some point, probably when another situation triggers a similar response.
But negative emotions can sap our energy, especially when we hold on to them. And they spread like wildfire, soon affecting our behavior and attitudes towards other people, like a single match that can burn down an entire forest.
And they create an emotional bond with the abuser that keeps our feelings alive, so that we keep replaying the drama and conflict over in our heads, justifying our own behavior and disregarding theirs. In the process, we become a not-very-nice person.
Anger, aggression, and bitterness are like thieves in the night who steal our ability to love and care. Is it possible to turn that negativity around and chill out so we can wish our abuser well, without necessarily needing to know them as a friend again? This may sound challenging and absurd but it can make life’s difficulties far more tolerable. How can we do this?
1. Recognize no one harms another unless they are in pain themselves.
Ever noticed how, when you’re in a good mood, it’s hard for you to harm or hurt anything? You may even take the time to get an insect out of the sink. But if you’re stressed or in a bad mood, then how easy it is to wash it down the drain.
2. No one can hurt you unless you let them.
Hard to believe, as no one actually wants to be hurt but it’s true. When someone hurts us, we are inadvertently letting them have an emotional hold over us. Instead, as spiritual teacher Byron Katie often says: If someone yells at you, let them yell, it makes them happy!
3. Respect yourself enough that you want to feel good.
Do not respond with negativity to those who hurt you, turn it around and continue to wish them well. By doing this, you will be able to feel total closure.
4. Consider how you may have contributed to the situation.
It’s all too easy to point fingers and blame the perpetrator but no difficulty is entirely one-sided. So contemplate your piece in the dialogue or what you may have done to add fuel to the fire. Even when you feel you’re 100 percent right, always look at a difficulty to see what was your part in it.
5. Extend kindness.
That doesn’t mean you’re like a doormat that lets others trample all over you while you just lie there and take it. But it does mean letting go of negativity sooner than you might have done before so that you can replace it with compassion. Like an oyster that may not like that irritating grain of sand in its shell but manages to transform the irritation into a beautiful and precious pearl.
Meditation takes the heat out of things and helps you cool off, so you don’t overreact. A daily practice we use is where we focus on a person we may be having difficulty with or is having a difficulty with us. We hold them in our hearts and say: May you be well! May you be happy! May all things go well for you!
So, can you see how to bring more kindness into your life? Do comment below.
Do you suspect (or know) that a supposedly monogamous partner has cheated on you? You are not alone. Between a fourth and half of all attached partners will cheat (or have cheated) at one time or another. Knowing others are affected too, however, does not lessen the hurt. Take a look at these steps and use them to help you get through the trauma. This can be an exceptional painful issue and the emotions are very intense so use this as a checklist to help yourself get through the event.
1. First and foremost – take a deep breath and some time. Do not let yourself have a knee-jerk response. Think! This is especially important in long-term relationships. Sudden reactions without thought can lead to consequences you might regret. Give yourself some mental space before you take any action.
2. Talk to someone. You are not alone. Statistics are sketchy and vary widely, but many surveys have been done on cheating and they indicate that between a fourth and half of all married people will or have cheated at one time or another.
3. Do not blame yourself. It’s easy for people to start looking at themselves for reasons why their partner cheated… nothing good will come of that. Issues that lead to cheating sometimes involve both people, but that’s certainly not always the case. However, it would help, at a later date look inwards too to find out why your partner looked elsewhere for comfort. There could be certain gray areas in your behavior which could have led to such actions. You have to remember that most humans like a monogamous lifestyle, as it brings about so much of happiness & security. However, there are a few who would not conform to this.
4. Determine whether you were actually cheated on. Ask yourself these questions: Were you officially boyfriend and girlfriend at the time this “cheating” occurred? Were you officially monogamous? If not, you cannot be sure that your significant other knew what he or she was doing would offend you, in which case you might want to consider less confrontational options.
5. Talk to your partner. Let your concerns and fears be known. It might come out that nothing at all happened, or perhaps something did happen and coercion was involved (workplace sexual harassment, for example, which needs to be discussed openly and immediately to ward off future occurrences). There could be a substance abuse or psychological issue that needs to be addressed (sex addiction is very real). If help is warranted, you might want to support your partner in getting help – that could prove therapeutic for both of you. However, substance abuse is not a valid “excuse” for inappropriate behavior and you absolutely must not permit the “yeah but I was drunk so it doesn’t matter” argument – stand very firm on that.
6. Ask yourself if you will ever be able to look at your partner the same way. Infidelity doesn’t mean much for some, and some people have more than one physical relationship and it doesn’t suggest a shortcoming in their relationship with their steady partner, but this is rare. Infidelity often indicates boredom and dissatisfaction with the present relationships. Dealing with a partner who doesn’t want you in the first place, or one who doesn’t mind hurting you, is ridiculous. Dump him/her if this is the case.
7. If you decide this is irreconcilable, don’t break up with your partner and later take him/her back. This will only give you more emotional stress. If you break up, make it a clean break. However, a trial separation is a valid option. If you do make a break of any kind (permanent or trial) don’t talk to your ex after breaking up with him/her immediately. Give yourself some cooling off time first. If there are children or critical financial issues this might not be possible. In that case, set specific ground rules (time frames, meeting places, etc). This can be difficult, but it’s important.
8. If you are married and pretty sure a more-than-casual relationship is happening, you might need to consider an attorney or a reputable detective in the area that specializes in domestic cases.
9. If you do use an investigator, do not confront or accuse your partner. Let the investigator do his/her job first (if you confront them they may continue in an even more cautious way, which will make the investigation more expensive).
10. Get tested for STD’s as soon as possible. Not knowing will cause you extreme stress. Early treatment is critical.
11. If you can, collect evidence (receipts, emails, photographs, etc.) of the paramour. Keep this information at a friend or family member’s house. This will be less work the investigator will need to do later on your dollar.
12. Don’t start rumors. Share your suspicions with more than one close friend is likely to create gossip that can have very negative results in many areas. If there is an investigation underway, that kind of talk can hamper the case.
13. Look at your own personal actions, too. If you are also cheating, then it might be time to have an open discussion with your partner and clear the air. Perhaps couples counseling is in order. If divorce is the chosen option, remember it can get very ugly, very quickly, and your indiscretions will be brought into the limelight as well.
14. Turnabout is not fair play. Don’t start a relationship just because your spouse has done so. This is pure revenge and nothing good will come of it.
• Get out if the incident has hurt you too much.
• Being honest with yourself is important. If you don’t end the relationship, can you live with the thought that it might happen again?
• Get counseling! It’s not a particularly bad idea to do this even if there’s nothing wrong in your life, but when you are hurt it can definitely help to talk to someone professional.
• It always helps to forgive and put it behind you and not dwell on the past if you want to move forward.
• Do you want to invest the energy to “monitor” the relationship?
“For example, the brains of the smokers in our study were more aroused by images that showed smoking in a positive light than by images that encouraged them to stop. They were also more affected by aversive non-smoking related images than by images of the specific negative consequences of smoking.”
In Canada and the U.S., approximately 20 percent of adults smoke cigarettes despite knowing its adverse effects, according to the researchers.
“We wanted to understand why knowing about the negative health impacts of tobacco does not prevent smokers from lighting up,” she said.
Using neuroimaging techniques, the researchers compared the emotional reactions of 30 smokers as they looked at aversive smoking-related images, such as lung cancer, compared to other aversive images — like an old man on his deathbed. They also had the smokers view positive smoking-related images, such as a smoker satisfying the urge to smoke.
The study helps explain why 70 to 95 percent of smokers who quit will, despite their best efforts, start smoking again within one year, according to the researchers.
“Many factors make it difficult for people to quit. Part of the explanation could certainly be because cigarettes ‘trick’ the brains of smokers,” said Stéphane Potvin, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and researcher at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal.
“Specifically, we discovered that the brain regions associated with motivation are more active in smokers when they see pleasurable images associated with cigarettes and less active when smokers are confronted with the negative effects of smoking.”
• Do men and women react differently after trauma? Yes.
• Does it mean one suffers more than the other? No.
• Do the differences confuse and often create tension for couples? Too often.
What we find across cultures is that in the face of traumatic loss, women need to speak about what has happened and men need to do something about what has happened. In one scene from the devastation of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, the women gathered, crying for their lost children while the men rebuilt the homes.
In their 2006 review of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Psychological Bulletin, David Tolin, and Edna Foa reported that although men have a higher risk for traumatic events, women suffer from higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. In their analysis, they suggest that the different rates of PTSD may actually be a function of the fact that men and women manifest their emotional pain in different ways.
In the aftermath of a traumatic event, women are more likely to have feelings of anxiety and depression, while men are more likely to express distress and depression in terms of irritability, anger and increased alcohol consumption.
Caught in the physical and emotional pain from a traumatic loss or event, couples often have very little patience for differences. It is hard for them to believe that their partner could feel different. It is even more difficult to believe that their partner could feel the same and react so differently.
When she suffered a miscarriage in the beginning of her fifth month, Claire was devastated. Then in her late 30’s, she was worried that this might have been her only chance to have a child. Even when she regained her strength, she was often unable to concentrate or sleep. She would ruminate and blame herself for waiting until her career was set before starting a family.
Claire was further upset by her husband John’s reaction. He was upset by the loss, but he seemed confident that there would be other chances. Claire wondered why he wasn’t blaming himself for their decision to wait to have kids. When she questioned him about this, he felt judged and blamed her for making it worse. They would end up fighting.
According to Dr. John Gray of Mars and Venus Starting Over, in the aftermath of the loss, both men and women need time to grieve. As such, it is often more common for women to blame themselves and for men to blame others.
Differences Don’t Equate to Lack of Love
If you find yourself struggling with your partner in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it does not mean that you don’t have a good relationship, or that you were never truly in love.
• Traumatic events are beyond what we ever expect. No one is prepared to respond.
• Differences in response don’t mean that as a couple you won’t cope or can’t heal.
If you take your time and give yourself and your partner a chance to grieve, cope and regulate stress in your own way and different ways, you will be able to use your relationship as an asset for coping.
• She joins a bereavement group at the church.
• He increases his workout schedule.
• She doesn’t want to socialize on the weekends, but he needs to get out—they settle on a movie date together.
Couple Considerations for Coping
• Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time – there is no right way.
• When in doubt don’t assume the worst about your partner – assume you don’t know.
• Interest and acceptance of your partner’s reactions invite sharing and empathy, which enhance healing.
• Being physically next to someone you love is a natural buffer for stress and emotional pain.
• Talking about the pain at times for her, valuing the shared silence for him—reflects the resilience of connection.
Sometimes the best-traveling companion in life is someone who sees and reacts to things in a way you would never have considered.
Over thinking only intensifies emotional pain and is responsible for migraines, insomnia, lack of creativity, and confidence.