According to a survey by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute, 62% of American adults say they need more forgiveness in their personal lives. So, what is forgiveness and why is it so hard for people to do? Forgiveness is defined as a verb as to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone (or something or some organization) for an offense, flaw or mistake. One thing that many people don’t understand is that forgiveness is about you and has within it a vast potential to be healing. Forgiveness is actually FOR you. As a high energy person, I am here to say that it takes significantly more energy to hold onto anger and resentment than it does to let go and forgive.
In this post I have listed 22 significant benefits that are available out of the act of forgiving. Would you want – increased happiness, improved mental health, better sleeping, increased energy, and a stronger immune system – to name just a few? Of course, you would want that. Who wouldn’t want to be happier or healthier? With all of the benefits available in forgiveness, why is it that many people have such a hard time forgiving? I have listed 28 reasons why some people either can’t or won’t forgive or hold grudges. Often times it could be due to depression, low self-esteem, or a lack of emotional abilities or not being able to deal with the emotional pain that comes with it. It can also come from dysfunctional families and wounds that have not been healed.
Sometimes the inability to forgive is because there is a misunderstanding of the core principles or realities of forgiveness. Here are some of the core principles attached to or embedded in forgiveness:
Forgiveness is a choice.
Forgiveness is for YOU (You receive the benefits by forgiving another.)
Forgiveness takes courage and it is an act of bravery and courage.
Forgiveness gives you freedom – freedom from the past, from anger and resentment
Forgiveness requires generosity and Grace
Forgiveness gives you a wide-open future
Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. nor does forgiving mean that you have to continue having a relationship with the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness is really all about you and very healing. Those individuals who can’t forgive or who are unwilling to forgive and hold onto anger and resentment are not helping themselves one little bit. They are actually harming themselves. It can be healing to your physical and mental health and will definitely give you freedom. Forgiveness gives you a golden opportunity to get complete and leave the past behind.
Personally, I have a longstanding relationship to the skills needed to be forgiving going back to my youth. I was first exposed to the concept of forgiveness in church and the scriptures in the Bible. Being a Catholic, which means we have confession as a practice, I learned that God can and will forgive any person for any action. That is very powerful. If God can and does forgive all of us for our sins or transgressions, then who are we to withhold forgiveness from others?
The other aspect of forgiveness that must be included here is the idea of forgiving ourselves. There are instances where we will need to forgive ourselves. Some years ago, I had to forgive myself for not knowing about psychopaths, narcissism and a few other things. I just didn’t know about it and yet, there it was as clear as day – that I needed to forgive myself for not knowing. Forgiving yourself is a powerful aspect of the healing nature of forgiveness. Sometimes, however, it is not readily apparent that self-forgiveness is what is missing. Sometimes you have to look. It’s part of being awake and aware.
I want you to be freed up in life so that you can live a happy and healthy life – one that you love. Holding onto anger and resentments is the opposite of that so it is time to get into action and go through the steps that it takes to forgive someone. Or you can simply walk around in life holding onto anger or resentments and being bitter about what happened to you or what someone did to you or didn’t do. It’s a simple choice. I hope you will consider the powerful position is to learn to forgive and move on with your life.
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Benefits to Forgiveness
Improved mental health
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
Lower risk of heart attack
Reduced psychiatric disorders
Lower mortality rate
Reduced substance abuse
Greater life satisfaction
Greater sense of hope
Restores positive thinking
Greater capacity for conflict management
Greater/increased abilities to cope with stress
Reasons Why People Won’t Forgive or Hold Grudges
Incorrect assumptions about people or the situation
Unrealistic expectations (whether communicated or not)
Low self-esteem/low self-worth
Low emotional abilities or skills
Black and white thinking (all or nothing)
Dysfunctional family or role models
Prone to negative thinking or a pessimist
Being overly sensitive or having a brittle temperament
Having power or control issues
Playing the victim (being the victim)
To feel superior
Splitting – dividing the world into “good people” or “bad people”
Lack of sense of humanity (we are human and make mistakes) or being a perfectionist
More comfortable with discord/unhealthy relationships
Lacking in love or the ability to love
Insensitive to the needs or predicaments of others
The hurt is too deep
The transgression is too cruel
Because they themselves are perpetrators of deception and spite
Particular beliefs or attitudes in life that prevent forgiveness
Revengeful in nature – wishing harm on another
Excessive pride or ego
Suicide Warning/Mental Health Waiver
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately. Please call someone, tell someone or post it on social media and ask for help right now! We have more people suffering from depression, anxiety, and negative emotions than ever before, which means that you are in good company. I am asking that you take a specific action if you are feeling suicidal or that harming yourself because your life matters more than you realize and because there is help available to you.
20 Steps to Becoming More Forgiving
Commit yourself to being more forgiving. Everything in life starts with a commitment. Make a commitment that you want the benefits and healing nature of forgiveness now and that you will take the actions to get there.
Ditch any shame or embarrassment for not being that way up until now. It doesn’t matter at all if you have held onto anger or resentment up until now. It simply doesn’t matter. What matters is your willingness to change and to grow and develop. I suggest that you leave any shame or embarrassment at the door because it is just not helpful to you as you move forward with your life.
Commit yourself to growth and development.Growth and development is an access to love, happiness, habits, practices, skills, attitudes and beliefs that will help you be highly functional in life and make life so much easier and receive great benefits. Growth and development is one of my loves so you have to understand that it can be fun or I wouldn’t be doing it. I assert that growth and development has one of the best return on investment (ROI) for your time and energy than anything else. At least that is my take on it.
Grow your emotional abilities. Looking at the list of why people don’t forgive or hold grudges, it should be clear that emotional abilities are often lacking. One of the major issues in society and the world is the lack of emotional abilities. You want to learn how to identify, manage and process your emotions because that is very much like a superpower. It is very freeing. Special care and attention should be given to growing your anger and assertiveness
Implement a personal reward system. Because I am talking about change, I highly recommend that you implement a personal reward system, which I am a huge fan of and use. A reward system can help you stay motivated as you build skills and learn new habits that will serve you and it should be fun. This is a stopgap measure while you build the muscles of self-discipline and self-motivation. You can even use a reward system after you have built your own muscles because it’s fun.
Embrace your humanity. We are all human and we all make mistakes. That is a fact of life. Some of the least forgiving people I know have almost no sense of humanity. The more you can embrace your humanity the easier it is for you to embrace the humanity of others.
Ditch any disempowering attitudes or beliefs or negative thinking that is holding you hostage. If you hold the disempowering belief that no one cares about you what will show up in your life is that no one cares about you. Same goes for if you believe that people are inherently bad – people will show up seeming like bad people. You want to have empowering attitudes and beliefs because that colors how you view the world. If you have the “I can’t win” attitude, how could you ever win in life? You wouldn’t. Disempowering attitudes and beliefs can prevent you from forgiving others so this is worthwhile to look at in my opinion. The same goes for negative thinking, catastrophizing, worrying, and overthinking. Negative thinkers often think the worst of people, their motives and intentions and therefore come to a negative conclusion inappropriately. Besides being a negative thinker is bad for your health and most people don’t find it to be an attractive quality in others.
Understand the Self-fulfilling Prophecy. If you are not making use of the self-fulfilling prophecy then you are using the self-defeating prophecy. This basic psychology concept has been around for decades and is a proven concept. Given that this concept exists, why not become familiar with it and use it to your advantage?
Boost your self-care. Self-care has many, many benefits one of which is that it can help you feel better. Self-care is a foundational skill set that you want to be doing every day and have fun doing it. The benefits to self-care go well beyond feeling better and I am a huge fan of this. I believe it is critical if you want to have a great life.
Get working on your self-compassion. Self-compassion is sadly lacking in our society and you will receive substantial benefits by taming your inner critic so to speak and being kinder to yourself. This supports becoming more forgiving because the kinder you can be to yourself the easier it will be to have compassion for others.
Be well loved. If you do nothing else in life I hope that you will consider making this your number one goal – even it is your only goal. It seems to me that we have a significant number of people in the world who do not feel well loved. In my humble opinion, the more loved you feel inside the easier it is to be forgiving. That’s not a fact, but rather my opinion and observations based on decades of dealing with people.
Have really great friends. Having really great friends can help you in so many ways. We know from the research that it is extremely difficult to have good health if you are lonely or experience feelings of isolation. Many people simply don’t have enough good friends or they have friends who aren’t the best. I have a whole series of videos about making friends because it is hard. Make sure you have really great friends in your life, which will support you being well loved and with becoming more forgiving. This is a skill set that you want to hone and develop if you have not already done so.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude is both an attitude and a practice. There are huge benefits to living a life filled with gratitude including happiness, better health, better sleep, and increased energy to name just a few of them. Living life with an attitude of gratitude will help you become more forgiving.
Be a person of character and integrity.Integrity is magical in my opinion. Being a person of character and integrity will help you be free from stress, worry, and so many things. It is the only way to live life. It also happens to be a very attractive trait to have in life. No one wants to be friends with or date a liar, cheater, gossiper, or backstabber. Can you see my point?
Talk to a trusted friend or confidant. Earlier in this list I suggested that you have really great friends. You want your friends to be people who you can trust and talk to about what matters in life. If you are having trouble with forgiveness sometimes talking to a trusted friend or confidant can help you move past any roadblocks and it can help you get a different perspective, which is helpful more often than not.
Put fun and happiness into your life. The more fun and happiness you have in your life the easier it will be to forgive and move on because you simply won’t be willing to give up any energy to negativity. Holding onto anger and resentments takes a lot more energy than forgiving and letting go.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. It might feel unnatural or awkward at first but it will feel better and more natural the more you practice.
Go to therapy or counseling if you need it. There should be no shame or embarrassment in seeking a therapist for counseling if it will help you.
Be up to something in life. The more that you are up to something in life that you love or that inspires you, the easier it will be to forgive and move on. That’s just a fact. If you are busy living your wonderful, amazing and fun life – are you going to want to dwell on something from the past? No. You are going to be busy living your life in the present and enjoying it to the max.
Celebrate and acknowledge yourself for being on this journey. I am a big fan of celebrating every milestone and achievement because life is hard. Why not celebrate everything that you can? I don’t know. My request is that you find some way to celebrate yourself for making a commitment to be more forgiving and for taking the actions to move in that direction.
What Forgiveness Might Look Like in Real Life
Without giving any details, let’s look at what forgiveness might look like in real life. Let’s say for example that someone betrayed you deeply and did a few other bad things to you. Yes, it is appropriate for you to be angry, hurt, maybe shocked, sad and resentful. Those are among a few of many appropriate emotions once the betrayal and other actions were revealed. Once you become aware of what happened then it is time for you to identify your emotions, process and manage them. Once you have identified your emotions and given language to your emotions, you will feel them in your body and have the appropriate language for the feelings. Then, over time as you move through your days and nights, you will start processing them. Processing your emotions is a whole process that I won’t get into now.
Then, as you have been processing your emotions to be able to move into a state of forgiveness you will want to put the circumstances, behaviors, and whatever happened into an empowering context so you can move on. Speaking for myself having had lots and lots of pretty bad stuff happen to me in my life, I will typically first look for what I can learn from the person or situation. I find learning from emotional pain to be very helpful. I sort out things that I can learn as my “takeaways” if you will, and then I create a context for the individual or situation.
Integrity is one of my core values that I refuse to give up under any circumstances. So, it depends on the level or severity of the situation what approach I will take. Minor infractions I will either confront or ignore but make a mental note that this is not a trustworthy individual, business, or organization. It really depends on what happened. I am so busy and happy with my life that some stuff I just let slide, but not without making a mental note to distance myself from whomever if I decided it wasn’t worth confronting.
In a situation where I have been betrayed or lied to in a significant or high level, then I am awake and aware that the person in question (or the organization or business) has no integrity. I simply refuse to deal with people, organizations or businesses that lack integrity. I then often feel sorry for the person or whomever because lacking in integrity, in my humble opinion, is relegated to losers and people who are sad sacks in life. People who do really bad stuff in life just are not worth my time or energy. Truthfully, I feel sorry for people who have no heart, lie and cheat and do bad things. They are not good people and their lives are lacking or devoid of love, affinity, relatedness and all of the good stuff.
What I do not do under any circumstances is hold onto anger and resentment because that saps me of my energy, vitality, freedom and happiness. My life is too valuable and too precious to me to have my time or energy taken up by losers. I just refuse to allow that. I could say a lot more on this but I think you get the general idea.
Call to Action
There is no question that holding onto anger and resentment takes more energy than forgiving. Where in your life are you holding onto anger or resentments? Can you see the significant benefits for moving into the healing nature of forgiveness? Are you willing to work on yourself to grow and develop so that you can have a happy and healthy life? What do you need? Who do you know that would benefit from this content? Would you share it with them? I am here to love you and support you in having a great life. Let me know how I can help you!