Harnessing the Power of Forgiveness When You Feel Weak
Have you ever been hurt by the actions or words of someone else? Maybe your mother-in-law criticized your parenting skills, your co-worker sabotaged a project or your spouse had an affair. These wounds sting deep and can leave you feeling angry, bitter or even vengeful. Only one weapon has the power to cure both parties: the power of forgiveness.
You’ve heard these clichés, right? “Water off a duck’s back.” “Be like a turtle.” “Live and let die.” These are euphemisms for forgiveness. The Beatles even wrote a song (one of my favorites since childhood–thanks mom!) about the subject. “Let it Be” builds a nice framework in our heart to look UP for comfort and reach out to those around us.
Forgiving someone who hurt you deeply can be one of the hardest things to do. You’ve got to realize that holding a grudge is bad for your health!
Did you know that letting go of resentment and the desire for revenge has several health benefits? For cancer patients, forgiveness means they can focus on healing instead of the negativity of past wrongs.
What is Forgiveness and What Does it Mean to Forgive?
Forgiveness is a choice to let go of resentment, desire for revenge or ill-will toward the person who wrongs you. Forgiveness is a choice WE make for our own well-being. Forgiveness brings PEACE that helps you move on with your life. Forgiveness is a supernatural part of the grief process (we’ll get to that in a few moments).
What Forgiveness IS NOT
Do you see these three possible choices below when you’ve been hurt by someone? Forgiveness is not the same. Go on, keep reading.
Forgetting a wrong might lead you to deny or suppress your feelings about the event, act or hurtful words.
Condoning or Excusing
Forgiveness doesn’t minimize, justify or excuse the wrong that was done. You can forgive someone who murdered your family member. I don’t think a heinous and horrible act committed like that gets excused or justified when you let go of your choice to resent or seek revenge.
Reconciliation is the coming together of two people in mutual respect. Both parties must work together to agree to return to a state of peace with each other.
Have I Ever Been Forgiven?
This is a crucial question to ask yourself, especially if you’re a Christian and reading this. For example, have you ever been forgiven? Forgiveness is what made you a Christian in the first place. Sometimes, we feel God may forgive others, but He cannot forgive us. Somehow, some of us believe that becoming a Christian through trusting in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose from the dead, wasn’t enough to forgive our sins. Nope. His love for you is radical. He died for you. He forgave you. You’re still forgiven!
Paul the apostle wrote Colossians 2:13 which says, “He forgave us all our sins”. The Greek word translated “all” means each and every, any and all. That means when we are born again all our past, present, and future sins are forgiven. Wow! Awesome! Yes, you have been forgiven! What happens to you when holding a grudge or resentment as a Christian?
Negative Effects of Holding Grudges or Resentment
Anger, sorrow or confusion are the feelings you feel when hurt by someone you love and trust. Dwelling on hurtful events or situations may lead to resentment or a sense of injustice. It may also lead to hostility toward that person, bitterness and finally vengeance seeking. Got a grudge? Your heart (cardiovascular) and your nerves (nervous systems) can’t take it! Research has proven that people who carry a grudge have increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and muscle tension when they thought about being wronged. They also felt less in control. Forgiveness can reverse the effects of holding a grudge! Don’t you want that? Don’t you want that for others?
Health Benefits of Forgiveness
According to research, people who forgive are more likely to have:
- Fewer bouts of depression
- Higher self-esteem
- More friends
- Healthier and closer relationships
- Longer marriages
- Lower blood pressure
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Fewer stress-related health issues
- Better immune system function
- Lower rates of heart disease
- Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Greater ability to digest and enjoy your Mexican food post-church potluck (don’t think I’m nuts, try it!)
Watch people who forgive for any length of time. You’ll notice major differences between them and those who don’t. You’ll notice more smiles, less hard lines on their face, and lighter or even less bags under their eyes. They will remain in a conversation longer even when strained, have a lighter step and nature about them, and are even more agreeable. Most of all, forgiveness could even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
How Do I Forgive Someone Who Hurt Me?
Forgiveness is a process of change, but there is also an event: a point in time which you decide to let go of a grudge and no longer allow it to define your life or color how you see the world. As a result, here are a few practical steps to take.
- Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life.
- Remember WHO forgave you ALL your sins! Think you can imitate even just a fraction of that?
- Reflect on the facts of the situation and how you responded. Sadly, the combo of these two have affected your life, health and well-being.
- When you’re ready, choose to forgive the person who wronged you.
- Throw away the victim role. Don’t play it anymore. There. Feels good, doesn’t it?
- Release the control and power YOU GAVE AWAY to the person or event that hurt you.
Share a time when you had to forgive someone. What happened? How long did it take for you to forgive them? What advice would you like to share with us around the Campfire?