We often hear about acts of forgiveness on the news. Some extraordinary people proclaim forgiveness for others who have committed heinous crimes against them. Forgiveness appears to be a noble and deeply moral thing to do. And then there’s also a lot of psychological research saying that forgiveness is associated with better physical and mental health and lower levels of depression. Which is all fine and dandy until you have someone you personally have to forgive!
We are not naturally inclined to forgive. We worry that we may be putting ourselves in a weak position and that what the other person did was inexcusable. We don’t want to let them off the hook.
But, sometimes it might be worth considering. There is a famous Buddha quote that says, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else—you are the one who gets burned.” To continue the metaphor of the hook, the problem is that when we are bitter and resentful, then we are on the hook as well. Before we can get ‘off the hook’ we need to let the other person off first.
Forgiving someone does not mean that you have to reconcile with them. It doesn’t mean you have to excuse or condone what they did. Instead, forgiveness is about trying to adopt a wider, more compassionate perspective and to commit to detach from the resentment. It should be your choice, not someone else’s. It also needs to be at the right time. It’s not a good time if you are still really hurting from what was done to you. It’s hard. Really hard. But ultimately you are not doing it for anyone else. You are doing it for you.
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