Forgiveness is the process and or act of compassionately releasing the desire to seek revenge/punish against someone or yourself for a perceived offense. Forgiveness refers to the person or persons willing to let go of pain, distress, anger, sadness, etc., rather than the actual act itself. For many people, forgiveness is not as easy as it seems, it can be long drawn out, challenging, appearing nearly impossible. One of the most difficult things for most people in regards to forgiveness stems from the idea the person that has hurt them has somehow “gotten away with something”. Unresolved negative feelings can lead to increased frustration, distress, and anger, delaying or preventing the process of forgiveness from occurring.

In comparison to forgiveness, revenge is the desire to get even or “settle the score” with someone when he/she does you wrong. For most of us it is natural to become angry when we feel someone has hurt, harmed, or betrayed us, however, this is a temporary state. Unfortunately, for some people the state of unhappiness and anger is not temporary, but fixed. Persons with unresolved anger and bitterness tend to ruminate on perceived slights and wrongdoings of others for an extended period of time. Revenge thinking prevents those in this negative state from moving beyond the anger and frustration, instead they remain locked in a state that leaves them feeling overwhelmed and powerless to control. Additionally, studies have shown that revenge increases stress, negatively impacts our health and immunity. To get beyond our anger and flourish personally we must resist the urge to seek and execute revenge against persons that have wronged us. This doesn’t make you a pushover; you’re just refusing to act in a tediously destructive way antithetical to ever finding peace.

Forgiveness does not mean you have to like or not feel hurt about what has been done to you, it simply means you have accepted that it has happened. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you minimize or deny the other person’s responsibility in hurting you, it does not justify he/she has wronged. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. Although, the act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, the act of forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Strategies That Can be Used to Aid with Forgiveness Include:

  • Identifying the root cause of your anger
  • Consider if the act is isolated or habitual
  • Identify personal role in the situation that is causing distress
  • Determine if the person that has caused you harm needs to be a part of your life
  • Change personal perception of self from victim to survivor
  • Forgive the person not the act
  • Develop your capacity for empathy

Benefits of Forgiveness Include:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Greater emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being
  • Less depressive symptoms
  • Healthier relationships
  • Lower blood pressure

Unfortunately, we cannot control or often prevent someone from hurting us, however, we can control how we respond to them. We have the capacity to control and make our own individual choices. 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.