learning to forgive yourself and others

Learning to Forgive

Learning how to forgive people (or even yourself) for mistakes or harmful decisions is probably one of the hardest lessons in life. Every scenario is different, so sometimes we find it easier to forgive than others — a coworker messing up on a project at work will feel quite different from a friend or spouse who lied to you in a big way. 

While the process of forgiving may take a variety of shapes and forms, it’s still just that: forgiveness. And if you desire to live a healthy and happy life, forgiveness is an essential step you’ll need to take.

The Importance of Forgiveness

Even if you don’t consider yourself a person who holds onto grudges often, chances are you’ve still felt extremely hurt at least once in your life because of someone else’s specific actions, words, or decisions. 

But while it’s completely normal to feel emotional pain, fury, or disappointment, living in a state of negativity for too long can start to impact other areas of your life. 

The negative energy you hold onto for prolonged periods of time can create energy blocks in the body and mental blocks in the mind. You might slowly start to feel a mystery pain or illness in your body over several months or years. You may begin to avoid getting close to other people for fear of getting your heart broken again.

To forgive, or to not forgive, then becomes a decision. As hard as it may be to accept this, saying, “I can’t possibly forgive _____” actually means “I won’t forgive.” And by choosing to stay mad, upset, or frustrated about something, you’re essentially choosing to live a life with more pain and less happiness. 

Why You Should Forgive Others . . . Even When They Don’t “Deserve” It

When we were growing up, many of us were taught to exchange an apology for a pardon: someone says “I’m sorry,” and the response is to say, “I forgive you.” But what happens when someone doesn’t apologize for what they did? 

In a perfect world, I’m sure all of us would feel at least a little better if everyone who hurt us felt bad about it, regretted it, or otherwise showed some remorse for their actions or words. In reality, there are many situations that don’t play out like this. It’s probably why we have such a hard time with forgiveness in the first place — we think we need to hear an apology before we can let ourselves feel lighter and happier, or to move on with our lives. 

Here’s the thing, though: choosing to forgive, even when someone has blatantly and intentionally harmed you, releases you from the negative circle. When we don’t forgive and instead hold on to resentment, Jen Sincero says it’s “like taking poison and waiting for your enemies to die.” If you practice forgiveness instead of planting your feet in the mud, you’ll have the opportunity to find the compassion, understanding, and peace you need to do other amazing things in life that make the world a better place. 

Learning to Forgive Yourself

As hard as it is to forgive your friends or family, it may be even harder to forgive ourselves. Whether you feel guilt, shame, or regret for something you said or did, it’s just as important to learn how to let go of this tension with yourself as it is to do the same with others around you. 

One of the first steps to forgiving yourself is to acknowledge the mistake and your feelings about that decision. In order to let it go, you’ll need to give that side of you a voice and hear what it has to say, rather than locking it up and facing the other way. 

However, you’re also likely to be your own toughest critic. While you should hear what your inner critic is saying to you, don’t let this little voice inside ruin all the wonderful abilities and goals you still have. Try journaling about the phrases or judgments this voice is telling you, and then respond in writing to why these aren’t true. Imagine these are things your best friend is saying about themselves: what would you say in response? 

You’ll probably end up discovering that either a) the situation wasn’t as bad as you thought it was initially, and/or b) this was a learning experience that can help you make adjustments and improvements in the future. 

Moving on and forgiving yourself can take time, but with practice and time to self-reflect, you can release heavy emotional burdens that keep you stuck in the past, inhibiting your growth. Forgive yourself to find the freedom to be fully present in every moment and continue your journey to creating a life you love. 

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