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Benefits – Forgiveness

Why Forgiveness? It’s Good For You!

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., Guide

Updated January 16, 2012 Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Forgiveness brings new opportunities to grow and let go.

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Betrayal, aggression, and just plain insensitivity: People can hurt us in a million ways, and forgiveness isn’t always easy. Whether you’ve been cut off in traffic, slighted by your mother-in-law, betrayed by a spouse, or badmouthed by a co-worker, most of us are faced with a variety of situations that we can choose to ruminate over or forgive. But forgiveness, like so many things in life, is easier said than done.

Forgiveness can be a challenge for several reasons. Sometimes forgiveness can be confused with condoning what someone has done to us: “That’s OK. Why not do it again?” Forgiveness can be difficult when the person who wronged us doesn’t seem to deserve our forgiveness — it’s hard to remember that forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the one who is forgiven. Ultimately, forgiveness is especially challenging because it’s hard to let go of what’s happened. However, it’s important to let go and forgive. Here are some reasons why:

Forgiveness is good for your heart — literally. One study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and BLOOD PRESSURE as well as stress relief. This can bring long-term health benefits for your heart and overall health.

A later study found forgiveness to be positively associated with five measures of health: physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints. It seems that the reduction in negative affect (depressive symptoms), strengthened spirituality, conflict management and stress relief one finds through forgiveness all have a significant impact on overall health.

A third study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that forgiveness not only restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the offending party (in other words, forgiveness restores the relationship to its previous positive state), but the benefits of forgiveness spill over to positive behaviors toward others outside of the relationship. Forgiveness is associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity, and other altruistic behaviors. (And the converse is true of non-forgiveness.)

So, to sum it up, forgiveness is good for your body, your relationships, and your place in the world. That’s reason enough to convince virtually anyone to do the work of letting go of anger and working on forgiveness.

See this article for some simple strategies on how to forgive.

Will Bring Happiness and Peace
So here are the 7 steps to peace of mind, happiness, freedom and forgiveness:

1. Find Your Clarity

Before you can forgive somebody, it’s essential that you clearly identify the offense against you. Exactly what was it that hurt you? And why, until now, have you been unable, or unwilling, to forgive them?

There are times in all our lives when we may feel tremendous anger and loathing towards someone (usually someone we are related to, married to, or work with) but cannot articulate exactly why we feel the way we do.

Emotions can be blinding. So the trick is to start by thinking about these three questions: 

Who hurt you?

What hurt you?

And why did this action offend you as it did?

This kind of self-reflection is the all-important first step in the act of forgiveness.

2. Find A Friend Who Listens Well

Once you have some clarity, it’s time to talk it over with someone you trust. An empathetic and non-judgmental pair of ears is what you need here. (Go to a supportive friend, NOT one that disagrees with you on everything, okay?)

This might be a friend, family member, spiritual leader, or a trained therapist. Unburdening yourself is going to feel really good, and help you find some answers.

3. Don’t Suppress The Pain

Pain – physical and emotional – shows up for the best of us. You may be in the habit of suppressing your emotional pain – your deepest wounds – because, frankly, that HURTS. Who wants to feel THAT?

But while you might feel better suppressing in the short-term, it’s incredibly detrimental in the long-term. Being numb doesn’t mean you got better, it just means you stopped feeling. On the other hand, if you opt to merely wallow in anger – in lieu of serious reflection – you’ll get stuck there like a dinosaur in a tar pit.

And, on top of everything else, this anger will entrench itself deeper and deeper in your psyche, and you’ll NEVER feel free. Yikes.

Feeling the pain to heal the pain is key.

4. The Truth Will Set you free

By accepting the depths of your genuine feelings, you can start to forgive yourself. If you deny your bona fide feelings, forgiveness will never be possible. It’s important to start with yourself, because sometimes we are harder on ourselves than anyone else!

So you get clear, and you talk it out, and you feel it all, and something cool happens. A doorway starts to open to INSIGHT. You will begin to see things differently.

Why? Because emotion is really slanted. It always distorts the truth. Only when you calm down and feel your feelings and begin to get still can the truth arise.

5. Honestly Assess Your Role in the Transgression

Life is a far cry from a seamless odyssey. Often it’s a mess. So it’s important to own up to your role in the mess. You might uncover that you were anything but an innocent bystander.

By allowing yourself to see the big picture, you can discover how you can do it better next time. In being totally honest with yourself about what happened and WHY it happened, the act of forgiveness automatically becomes more sincere and heartfelt.

6. The Decision

There will ultimately come a moment when you must decide whether or not to face the person who wronged you. Very often, this decision is clear-cut. That is, if it’s a relationship of legitimate value to you – one that you want to save or make better – meeting and forgiving the person in question is the obvious road to travel down.

If, however, the individual does not fit into this category, there is nothing wrong with forgiving him or her in your heart of hearts, and getting on with your life. Forgiveness is in essence a release – a letting go – for YOU, not the other side.

The fact that you’ve found it in yourself to unconditionally forgive a person is an incredibly uplifting and empowering experience in and of itself!

7. Forgiveness is a Process

We live in an age of instant gratification. We’re used to FAST fulfillment. But there’s no such thing as high-speed forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness takes time. It’s a healing process. And depending on the gravity of the transgression against you, it could take a while. Allow the 7 steps to forgiveness to unfold at a pace that’s right for you and what you want to accomplish.

Peace is possible, and you are on the road to it!

Wishing you the power to forgive and let go —

Aviva Engel

PS. The 7 steps to forgiveness take time to master, so be patient with yourself. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have!



Home » Dharma Teachings

Dharma Talks   |   Forgiveness Practice   |  

Reconciliation Meditation   |   Dana

The act of forgiveness is a spiritual practice in and of itself.

Forgiveness practice acknowledges what you have done or what someone has done to you. By taking responsibility or acknowledging the act, you can move towards “letting go” rather than have it enmeshed as part of your identity. This does not mean that you won’t have regrets but rather that you are not imprisoned by those regrets.

Practicing forgiveness is something you do for your own sake, in order not to be locked in anger and fear. It’s crucial to understand that we are not necessarily forgiving “the act” but opening to forgiving the person.

If you haven’t forgiven yourself or others, it is hard to open your heart to loving-kindness. To meet hatred and loss with love and a generous heart is a most difficult practice.

​Standard Version

To those whom I may have caused harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words and* actions,
I ask your forgiveness.

To those who may have caused me harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through their thoughts, words and actions,
I offer my forgiveness.

For any harm I may have caused myself, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words, and actions,
I offer my forgiveness.

Extended Version

To those whom I may have caused harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words and* actions
arising through greed, ill-will or delusions,
I ask your forgiveness.

To those who may have caused me harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through their thoughts, words and actions,
I offer my forgiveness, as best I am able.

For any harm I may have caused myself, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words, and actions,
I offer my forgiveness.

 some people say “and”, others “or”. Keep it simple and vibrant for you. Substitute your own words if

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