Unforgiveness - And How to (Finally) Let it Go

Forgiving others, let alone ourselves, is not easy. But it is worth it. Read on to discover the power of forgiveness and how it can make us better.

By Jenny Dsouza ~

Unforgiveness 2

We’ve all have been wronged by someone. Isn’t it? That person can be a friend, co-worker, or family member. While it is hard to forgive those who knowingly harm us, it is almost impossible for us to forgive ourselves. In this article, we will open up the conversation about forgiveness, especially about forgiving ourselves. Here is what we will cover:

Interestingly enough, we are able to forgive (or rather forget) people who are not close to us. But we are harder on ourselves and the people we love. We are less forgiving and hold grudges much longer when people close to us hurt us inadvertently.

We know what you are thinking. It's easier said than done. Who wants to be divine when the pain of deception is unbearable? Many times, the trauma is so deep that it affects almost every aspect of our lives.

We all have certain things that we categorize as unforgivable (like the three unforgivable curses in Harry Potter). Especially those wounds that happened to us as children continued over the years and what clearly cannot be categorized as a mistake. As an adult, when someone dearly breaks our trust, it leaves a lasting impression on us, and getting over it can be heart-wrenching.

But a person who’s been grievously hurt and faced anguish knows that the longer we hold on to our wounds, the more it breaks you. The best medicine to recover from this damage is ironically, ‘forgiveness.’ And there is a very practical reason for that. What happened to you was not in your control. It was an outside circumstance. Only way you can take back the power is through forgiveness. Because while what happened may not be in your control, forgiveness is in your control.

R.T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the decision to let go of the angst and resentment and to set free the person who hurt you deeply. Here is a video by R.T. Kendall better understand the art of forgiving. It explains how total forgiveness can build inner peace and eventually, help us reconnect with ourselves.

In the video below, RT Kendell talks about Total Forgiveness. Even if you are not religious, take a moment to listen to him.

This approach of radical and total forgiveness can heal wounds that have been open for years and help us see a way past the events that are holding us back.

What is Self-Forgiveness?

It is almost harder to forgive ourselves because technically, we did have control over the situation we regret and we did not live up to ourselves. When we do something that is unforgivable in our own eyes, it leads to a much larger discord. Guilt can overshadow everything. It can lead to a feeling of never being good enough that often lasts for a lifetime. Self-forgiveness is forgiving yourself simply because you are human and because no matter who you are and what you have done, you deserve it. When the person harming you the most is your own inner voice, it is time to be kind to yourself and simply, forgive.

The fact that you are feeling the guilt and the pain means that you truly regret your actions. You know you did something wrong. But beating yourself up for that will not help anyone. It will only make matters worse. Your inner voice will become cynical and self-critical, which will lead to a greater possibility of making the same mistake again.

When you criticize yourself over and over again, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you continue to break your own trust. The vicious cycle continues and our bond with ourselves gets weaker.

The 4 Rs of Forgiveness

Even if you are ready to forgive yourself, there is the question of how. Know that forgiveness is not a one-time thing. It is a decision you make every day to let go of the past and focus on the future. It is something you work on overtime and then maybe someday that bond of trust is renewed. While different approaches to forgiveness work for different people, the Four R’s of forgiveness are a good place to start.

The 4 Rs of Forgiveness are Responsibility, Remorse, Restoration, Renewal.

Responsibility

The first step is to take responsibility for what happened. Let go of all excuses (“it happened out of anger,” “if he/she did it why can’t I?” “It is just a reaction to his/her actions, not my fault”). Learn to be okay with the fact that you made a mistake. Try not to justify it, even if it is justified. Just accept it unconditionally.

Remorse

Next, is to truly feel the remorse. Feel what someone else felt when you wronged them, the pain and the hurt you caused. Only when you feel the remorse in this way, with empathy, can you really begin the process of healing. Show compassion to yourself, be gentle and kind as you go through the 4Rs of forgiveness.

Repair

Your actions hurt people and caused damage. While it may not be possible to fix everything, go out of your way to fix what broke as a result. Make a genuine effort to set things straight.

Repeat

Turn your mistakes into opportunities of growth and learning. What did you learn from the experience? How can you make sure that you never repeat it again? What steps can you take today?

Letting go of the past is by far the hardest thing we can do, but it is also crucial. A recent 2021 research study reveals that self-forgiveness enables us to be more confident, makes us more positive, and lowers the likelihood of depression.

Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is the inability to discharge the pain of betrayal leading to hate, and sometimes, debilitating life situations. According to a 2016 research article, unforgiveness can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and premature aging.

There are things in our pasts that seem unfathomable to forgive. Certain behaviors leave a deep scar on us and we carry those through our lives. So much so that these scars sometimes become a part of our identity and our moods turn into personality traits and attitudes over time. Changing that aspect of our lives sometimes means changing who we are fundamentally. In situations like these, it is important to get professional help. Take the time to heal yourself. It may be the most important thing you do for yourself in your lifetime.

Consequences of Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is an open wound. It paralyzes us (or a part of our body), and restricts us from realizing our full potential. Just like untreated wounds, unforgiveness festers, becomes deeper, and makes it impossible to think about anything else. It colors our judgments and life choices. When severe, it also causes other psychological problems:

Impulsive Behaviour

Pain is a primal part of our survival instincts. When we are in pain (remember, our subconscious cannot differentiate between physical and emotional pain), our survival instincts are activated. When a triggering event occurs, we respond instinctively and often in a negative way. It triggers behavior that is completely unlike us.

Negative Thoughts

Unforgiveness shuts the door of positive feelings as negative thoughts conquer our minds. When survival instincts have kicked in, our animal brain is always looking for possible danger, thinking of the worst possible outcome in any situation. These bitter thoughts come in the way of forgiveness. Studies show that when we are unable to forgive and forget, our minds deteriorate faster, leading to mood swings and poor mental health.

Lack of Satisfaction

When we are struggling with big issues internally, nothing seems good enough. No matter what others do for us or what feats we achieve, the world seems lackluster. All good things are not good enough, things we’ve always wanted to not give us the satisfaction we were craving, and when things go our way, we are suspicious of our good fortune. Feelings of unforgiveness have a way to affect many areas of our lives.

Anxiety/Stress

When someone wrongs us, the first thing we do is to stop talking to them. Followed by blaming them. When we are unable to talk to them, we bottle up the rage, betrayal, and frustration which leads to anxiety and stress. Constantly ruminating on past events keeps us trapped in the cycle of distress.

Health Issues

Our negative feelings tend to manifest as physical ailments. When we bottle things up, we often find ourselves afflicted with chronic conditions that have no real cause or cure. We then spend a lifetime taking drugs to alleviate our pain. We are not against allopathy, but many chronic illnesses have emotional beginnings.

Affects Relationships

At times, the recipient of our inevitable anger is a different person than the one causing pain. Unforgiveness not only causes severe damages to the strained relationship but also causes conflicts with existing relationships. When we are unable to forgive others, our trust in humanity is on shaky ground. We become jaded and don't expect much from other relationships, expecting to be hurt and disappointed in them.

Sleep Deprivation

A recent study shows that there is a direct relationship between forgiveness and the quality of sleep. When our hearts are heavy and stricken, we find it harder to relax. Our survival instincts are in hyperdrive, producing cortisol, keeping us awake and aware of possible danger. We starve ourselves of sleep, a time when our body repairs itself. When we are sleep-deprived, we can survive, sure. But we cannot thrive.

Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful drug. It can heal us in surprising ways and make our lives easier to live. A Harvard study describes forgiveness as one of the eight potent positive emotions. Imagine that. When we are able to radically forgive someone, we can take control of our lives and move on to the important things we’ve always wanted to do. Forgiveness can heal many chronic conditions, disappear acne, reduce stress and anxiety, and give us another chance at life. Forgiveness, especially forgiving ourselves, is powerful. Once you experience the freedom that comes from it, it is impossible to turn back.

Why is Forgiveness Important?

Forgiveness does not occur overnight for most of us, it is an ongoing process, something we do every single day of our lives till it feels natural and acceptable. It is easy to quit on the journey of forgiveness because on most days, it's hard to quit being ourselves. It is hard to override our survival instincts.

Everett L. Worthington Jr, a renowned psychologist who has dedicated his career studying this subject has found forgiveness to have tremendous social and health benefits.

It is a process of ignoring suffering and finding a positive mindset. Forgiveness promotes mental and physical wellbeing.

In a nutshell, we should consider forgiving ourselves and others because of these benefits:

Also, forgiving can improve our health. It can alleviate:

Books on Forgiveness:

If you want to start on the journey of forgiveness, and seeking professional help seems like a really big step, then we recommend reading some of the books below.

  • No future without forgiveness - by Desmond Tutu. A must-read inspirational book with some inspiring stories.
  • Radical forgiveness Colin Tipping - Colin Tippin. This book teaches us to learn from our past experiences. This book comes with worksheets that assist in working on specific personal issues.
  • Wings of Forgiveness - Kyle Gary. Another exceptionally well-written book, it consists of many stories that help its audience to understand the basics of forgiveness better.
  • Forgiveness - Iyanla Vanzant. This book is easy to read and understand, also it consists of a 21-days practicing program that one must follow for better results.
  • Forgiveness: Finding peace through letting go - Adam Hamilton. This book takes you through the spiritual path and portrays forgiveness from a biblical perspective. Yet another book, encouraging a practical approach rather than just theoretical.

We hope you found this article on forgiveness helpful. We would love to hear your thoughts on forgiveness in the comments.

Comments

Liepalire

It didn’t knew there are health benefits if we forgive someone. That was shocking.

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