forgiving others and yourself

When you allow yourself to be forgiving, you stop letting your negative feelings influence your life.

It's a decision to let go. It doesn't mean forgetting or justifying what happened to you, rather reducing the influence it has on your life. You don't have to forget or justify what happened, but decide that it will not influence your life.

There's no one that hasn't been hurt, cheated, offended or otherwise wronged, often times by someone they loved and trusted.

The expected reaction is anger, resentment, and even revenge. Dwelling on these negative thoughts can lead to physical and emotional problems such as back aches, high blood pressure, stress, and depression.

By pardoning someone you are doing something to help yourself. It doesn't reduce the other person's responsibility or excuse what he/she did. You don't have to reconcile with the perpetrator because it's not about him/her.

It's about you moving forward with your life in a positive direction.


The choice is yours

You can choose to hang on to your bitterness or you can choose to let it go.

There are those that feel that they must hold on to the hate or anger. They think that if they let things pass, it's like saying that what happened was OK. There are others that prefer to hang on to their anger and resentment because it gives them an excuse for their shortcomings.

For us baby boomers , there is no better time than now to find the courage to let go of the anger, resentments and hostilities that have built up over the years.


How to forgive

Letting go of the anger is not easy. It demands a lot of work and time. But first you must make the decision that you want to pardon.

Think of how your negative feelings have affected your life and consciously decide that you are letting go of the past, and ending its control over you.

Saying it out loud or writing it down helps many people. It may help to talk to a professional or a religious adviser. Many times a good friend can help you see the way.

The process can take time. It can have setbacks, but in time it will give you strength and control over your own life.


What if you can't forgive?

There may be cases where the act seems unabsolvable. If the hurt is so bad and the wrong doing so heinous, you might suffer to some degree for the rest of your life.

Be patient and keep trying so you can heal. Keep in mind that the person you forgive never needs to know. You are pardoning the soul, not the act.


How do I forgive myself?

If something you did or said in the past is keeping you from truly being in the present, it's time to go forward with your life. Admit your faults and the mistakes you've made and resolve to treat others as you'd like to be treated, with respect, kindness and thoughtfulness.

This of course much easier said than done, especially if it goes back many years. We have a tendency to constantly beat ourselves up about what an awful thing we've done as if somehow this will serve as the punishment "you deserve", and help ease the guilt.

Understanding your guilt more fully might help. Ask yourself:

  • Is there anything I can do to change the wrongdoing?
  • How long ago did it happen?
  • How do I feel when I recall the incident?
  • What would help me excuse myself?
  • Who is responsible for what I did?
  • Would it help me to confide in someone about what happened?
  • Has anything good happened because of my guilt?
  • Do I think I should be released from this feeling?

Think about what you would say to a good friend that was in your position. For example:

  • You're only human and humans make mistakes.
  • Nobody's perfect.
  • You are a good person.
  • You need to exonerate yourself and go on with your life.
  • Let go of the past.
  • What happened in the past is not who you are today.
  • Start living in the present.

Continue the list and repeat these statements out loud to yourself every day until you start feeling a change in your attitude towards yourself.


Visualization

This is a technique that you can do yourself or under a coach's guidance. There are books, courses and videos that cover the subject in depth. Generally speaking, it involves closing your eyes, taking several deep breaths and imagining yourself in a particular situation, for example confronting a person you want to forgive or asking for forgiveness from someone.


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