Stress Relief Through Forgiveness

How many times have we heard the phrase, “Forgive and Forget” and wondered about the validity of that statement?  Or maybe it was the phrase of, “I will never forget what you did.”  I wanted to take a moment to discuss this topic because not forgiving can affect us in many ways.  It attacks us physically because of the emotional stress it causes.  It attacks us mentally because the event tends to stay in our minds and keeps us in a negative emotional state.  It attacks our emotions and hinders our ability to experience peace.  And it attacks us spiritually because it strains our relationship with God.

Sometimes we struggle with forgiveness because we combine forgive and forget together.  We should learn to separate the two and focus on just forgiveness as a priority.  I say this because forgetting is not something that is a realistic goal.  If there were something very simple done, we may forget over time, but traumatic experiences tend to stay in our memories.  The challenge with forgetting is learning how to handle your emotions when you remember what happened.  You will either allow your emotions to rise up again or you will be able to remember the event without it affecting how you feel.

Forgiveness defined means, “to give up resentment of or claim to requital.”  So forgiveness is not an effort to forget, it is an effort to end the emotion that you feel, which is usually anger or resentment.  To forgive is the ability to not hold it against the person when you remember what happened.  When things happened, we will either feel angered or hurt, and sometimes both because we are angry that the person hurt us especially in the case when we are hurt by someone who we are close to and love.  These wounds can run deep but the first step in being healed from what happened begins when we release anger, resentment, or any emotions we feel as a result of what happened.

This is something that should be done whether the person asks for forgiveness or not.  Keep in mind, that sometimes we feel that not forgiving is a way of avenging what the person did to us. “I will never forgive you” is what we typically will say or feel.  However this mentality rarely hurts the other person, but it always hurts ourselves.  This mentality can be compared to a boomerang; we throw it at someone but it ends up coming right back at us.  So we do not owe it to the other person to forgive, we owe it to ourselves.  Forgiving can release the emotions that causes problems with us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually and allow us to move on in peace, even though we still remember what happened.  Just remember that after you have forgiven, that you do not beat yourself up because you have not forgotten.

I remember something that happened to me as a child, when I was attacked by those I called my friends.  For a span of time, when I remembered what happened it triggered thoughts of revenge.  For those of your familiar with the show Ally McBeal, I had several Ally McBeal moments of what I was going to do.  But the day came when I chose to release those thoughts and emotions and I forgave them even though it was never requested.  It liberated me.  Yes, I still remember it, and that was decades ago, but when I remember it, my emotions are no longer stirred up because of what happened.

Again, forgiving and forgetting are separate actions with forgiving being the most important and vital thing to do.  When this stresses us, stress can affect our health as well as our relationships.  We can be hurt by one person, and stress can cause us to take it out on someone else.  So there are many dangers in not forgiving, more so than not forgetting.  So I encourage you to take inventory in your memories, and if there are memories that stirs up negative emotions, these are the events we need to focus on and learn to forgive so that we can be freed from the affects that negative emotions have on our lives.

Here are a few tips when considering forgiveness:

  1. Forgiving is not easy, but it is vital to release the negative effects it has on us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
  2. If you feel that you cannot forgive, seek help.  Find someone you trust to talk to and release what you are feeling.  This can be someone close to you, or you can find a counselor, local clergy, or someone in your life whom you have chosen to keep you accountable, such as a life coach or mentor.  Depending on your faith, the best person to speak with is God.
  3. Don’t forget to forgive yourself.  Sometimes out of anger, we end up saying or doing things because of the actions of the other person. Because they hurt or angered us does not excuse our actions.  We have to forgive ourselves and seek forgiveness from the other person as well.
  4. Don’t wait for the person to forgive, seek forgiveness as soon as you are aware of how the event or the memory of the event causes you to react negatively.
  5. Take a moment to realize that all hurt is not intentional.  Sometimes people will do us wrong with no ill intent, and never realize that they have hurt or angered us, except for the way we respond negatively. In these cases they may be looking at us trying to figure out what is wrong with us.  In these cases, it is best to wait until you have calmed down and chose the right moment to explain what you feel towards that person.
  6. When you have forgiven, even though you remember the event, try not to bring up the event and use it as an attack against the person.  If the person is sincere in their apology, they will already have to deal with guilt, and bringing things up does not help the situation.  Moving on doesn’t mean you forgot, but rather you have agreed to no longer be angry or hold resentment because of what happened.
  7. Remember that forgiving a person can relate to a person forgiving you.  Today, we have to forgive the other person, but tomorrow, it may be the other person forgiving us.  We ought to forgive as we would like to be forgiven when we are the source of the problem.

These are just a few things to keep in mind with forgiveness, and I encourage you to ensure that you have forgiven people for all events that has occurred whether they have asked for forgiveness or not.  Release yourself from the negative affect this has on us and move forward in peace.

Article by K.Devon Pendleton

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