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Why You Should Forgive

1 month ago / by Sweta Vikram

The simple act of condoning can improve your physical and emotional health

A pair of hands letting go and birds in the sky
Photo via Shutterstock

Raise your hand if someone hurt you but never apologized. Raise your hand if you felt gaslighted for the plethora of emotions you experienced. The sentence that irritates me the most, “Let it go.”

Your emotional wound is not a piece of candy you lost at the street fair. When your heart hurts, every cell in your being feels violated, and your soul feels bludgeoned, you can’t just let it go because a third party makes that suggestion. 

I get upset when people manipulate a situation to avoid disruption of the status quo, “You are better than XYZ, so forgive them. Be the bigger person.” The worst is when some choose to justify bad behavior by saying, “They might have acted out because they were stressed or anxious. Maybe you should have met them in another place or at a different time?” 

The Importance Of An Apology  

A friend and I were talking about how bullies and manipulative people get their sides of the story out. The ones who choose maturity and silence are often misunderstood. Of course, you never receive an apology because they seemingly never made a mistake, such as an apology from a friend who disappeared without explanation. Or an apology from a parent who emotionally hurt you but never acknowledged the harm they caused. Perhaps you never got an apology from the partner who promised to love you forever but abandoned you when things got tough.

The list of unreceived apologies goes on—from a sibling who doesn’t know the damage they did to you, or from a colleague who threw you under the bus, or from the in-laws who treat you like an outsider. These offenses are so deep-rooted and hurtful that it’s hard to forgive them.

Choosing Forgiveness

I have chosen the path of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not about being the bigger or better person. Forgiveness is much more than that. It’s a gift you give yourself. And that is why I forgive people, despite knowing that I will never receive an apology.

Forgiveness Gets You Out Of Victim Mode

Being hurt by someone you love and trust can be confusing, a myriad of feelings engulf you. I have realized that when I forgive someone who never admitted the harm they did, it makes me feel freer. Otherwise, my mind goes back to Why me? Why not others? What did I do wrong? Why did they pick on me? My ability to trust people diminishes.

I don’t like living with emotional heaviness. Once I forgive someone, it doesn’t mean I have forgotten what transpired or things ever return to the way they were. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done. But it helps me snap out of my pity-party. 

Forgiveness Helps You Take Back Control

When someone hurts us, it takes a toll on our emotional wellbeing. When we keep expecting an apology, we are basically handing over the remote control of our wellbeing to that person. We get bitter, hold resentment, and might even wish them ill. But notice how we remain chained to their actions and glued to the past. I think of forgiveness as a self-help tool. It’s not about finding excuses for the offending person’s behavior. Forgiveness can free you from the control of the person who hurt you.

Forgiveness Helps You Move On

When we are angry, we tend to be all consumed with the issue (understandably so) and feelings. I was talking to an aunt who kept bringing up discord from three decades ago. Everyone else is living their lives but dwelling on those past events has filled her mind with negative thoughts. She is stuck in an emotional rut. She is the only one who is suffering in this situation.

And that’s why, sometimes, we need to forgive—to get to the next chapter of our lives. No one knows how much time they have left. Whether you choose to stay in a place that causes you pain or choose to move forward, it’s in your hands. Forgiveness allows free flow of energy and enhances your own healing. 

Forgiveness Is Good For Your Health

My mind feels calmer, my sleep is deeper, and my digestion is on point when I forgive people. According to an article in Harvard Health, “Observational studies, and even some randomized trials, suggest that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction.”

Also, did you know that the sympathetic nervous system is activated during anger? This raises the heart rate and increases muscle tension. Several studies have shown that anger dramatically increases the incidence of coronary heart disease. Why make yourself sick over someone else?

Forgiveness Creates Healthier Relationships

I don’t mean you should create relationships with your offender. I believe forgiving others helps us forgive ourselves. There have been times when someone has hurt me, and I got angry at myself for putting myself in that situation. My mind also knows I would have thwarted danger if I’d known what was coming. Part of forgiveness is about being empathetic and understanding that no one is perfect, and everyone carries baggage, including us. Part of forgiveness, for me anyway, is about my own healing. 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”