Irving Najman, LMFT, CSAT
The Act of Forgiveness
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
It is difficult to consider forgiveness when someone has done you wrong and you're in the middle of trying to figure out what just happened. You might still be experiencing shock, hurt, anger and perhaps even betrayal from someone who you’ve trusted. Dr. Joan Borysenko, a cancer cell biologist at Harvard Medical School and a pioneer in studying how emotions affect the body, states a common misconception about forgiveness, “forgiveness is a not a shortcut around anger; it’s a way to move on once anger has subsided and to avoid getting mired in resentments.”
In other words, it is part of the healing process that allows you to feel every emotion that it’s coming up for you around that situation. People often confuse the concept of forgiveness with excusing, condoning, pardoning, forgetting, or reconcile (Enright, Freedman, & Rique, 1998). However, forgiveness as defined by Enright “is a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and even love toward him or her.” Another thing that you might want to consider is that practicing forgiveness does not require you inviting the wrongdoer into your life, as a matter of fact in some cases, it is prudent to distant yourself from the offender in order for you to feel safe and begin your healing.
In a study at The University of Northern Iowa and other similar studies across the nation on forgiveness, researchers have found that forgiveness “is a complex process and it’s vital to one’s well-being,” practicing forgiveness has shown an improvement in individual’s reduction level of anxiety, depression, higher self-esteem and overall better emotional health.
In 1990, a Taiwanese study by Enright and Tina Huang proposed for the first time that forgiveness has physical health benefits that goes beyond emotional healing. The study showed that releasing resentments improved a patient’s blood pressure, a major risk factor in coronary artery disease.
Some Ways to Learn to Forgive:
Embrace Your Anger – Give yourself permission to be angry before you move on. Once the anger and the hurt have subsided, you can start contemplating moving into forgiveness.
Practice Stress Management - remember to practice healthy self-soothing techniques to alleviate stress associated with your hurt. Some examples might be taking deep breaths, going outside for walks, meditating, practicing mindfulness, journaling, etc.
Forgiveness is for Yourself - remember that forgiveness is for yourself and no one else.
Look Beyond Your Pain – Remind yourself that someone who has done you wrong may still have some redeeming qualities, even you might have done something hurtful to someone in the past and you are more than your misdeeds.
Speak No Evil – When thinking of your offender, avoid using derogatory language towards him. The only thing that accomplishes is keeping a grudge and instilling toxins into your body. An old and wise adage that I often hear at meetings is “holding unto resentments is like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies.”
Study Your Dreams – Focus on releasing resentments and seeing the offender in a different light.
Think Kind Thoughts – Practice sending Love & Light to the offender. Remind yourself that this person needs help, needs guidance, he’s a human being and most importantly he/she is a Child of G-d.
Persevere – Forgiveness might take a long time and it might be hard for you to move into compassion. Just by simply considering it and making an effort to move into forgiveness, it will make your heart lighter and you will enjoy an overall better emotional and physical health.
Remember, forgiveness doesn’t start with a rush of compassion toward the offender, but often it begins with your willingness to try something different in service to your health. If you’re experiencing a deep hurt, anger, betrayal and are holding unto resentments, please contact me so we can begin on your healing journey towards forgiveness.