Everyone has been hurt by someone near and dear to them at one point or another. Sometimes the harm is intentional, while more often than not it is the result of a careless statement, years of shaded criticism, a single act of selfishness or a traumatic incident. Whatever the cause, the wounds created by another person’s actions can leave you feeling angry, bitter and hungry for revenge.
While it’s normal to feel angry when hurt by someone you love and trust, it’s not healthy. The inability to forgive is comparable to a festering wound; like a wound that won’t heal, holding onto a grudge can eat away at your well-being. If you struggle to shake the anger, it may be time to find ways to actively forgive someone and, just as importantly, learn why forgiveness is so important.
The Benefits of Letting Go
By holding onto a grudge and bitterness, you may be unwittingly sabotaging your own health, peace of mind, relationships and overall happiness. When you can finally learn to forgive, you will notice substantial improvements in several areas of your life:
- Better relationships
- Improved mental health
- Lower blood pressure
- Less stress, anxiety and hostility
- A stronger immune system
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved heart health
On the other end of the spectrum, if you continue to let your anger consume you, you will struggle to find peace and happiness. Grudges make it difficult to hold onto old relationships and forge new ones. You may become so engrossed in the past that you fail to enjoy the present, and your feelings of anxiety and depression may only grow worse instead of better. Finally, a grudge can make your life feel devoid of purpose or value, or that you cannot seem to reconcile your thoughts and actions with your spiritual beliefs.
Working Toward Forgiveness
When a person hurts you, it can be so easy to dwell on thoughts of anger or “getting even,” especially if that person is someone you love and trust. For some people, those feelings fade with time, and eventually they are unable to remember why they were so mad in the first place. For others, however, the harm seems insurmountable. If you’re someone to whom forgiveness does not come easy, you may need to try a more active approach rather than waiting for forgiveness to come to you. Some things you should work on beginning today include the following:
- Educate yourself on the benefits of forgiveness and how it can improve your life and overall health.
- Identify who needs to be forgiven and for what.
- Try to figure out why a remark, action or inaction hurt you so badly in the first place. You may realize that the problem lies with you and not really the person you’re mad at.
- Acknowledge your emotions and assess how they impact your life. In doing so, you may realize just how damaging holding a grudge can be.
- Stop viewing yourself as the victim, as victimizing yourself only serves to give the offender power over your life and happiness.
- Choose to forgive the person who offended you. If it helps, remember that forgiving someone does not necessarily mean you have to have a relationship with him or her in the future. It just means you free yourself of the burden of dwelling on the offense.
If you struggle to work through these steps on your own, consider joining a self-help group or visiting a therapist. Some people require more hands-on help when it comes to letting go of a grudge, and that’s okay. Ultimately the goal is to find peace both with the person who offended you and yourself, regardless of how you go about doing so.