The Joy of Forgiveness

We are all familiar with the feeling of unforgiveness. That tightness when we think of that person. The hurt, anger, sadness that can ruin our moment, our day, our life. 
We often misunderstand what forgiveness is. It's easy to think that if we choose to forgive we are telling ourselves that what they did wasn’t important and that the pain from the consequences doesn’t matter. 
The Mayo Clinic published an insightful article on forgiveness:
“Forgiveness means different things to different people. But in general, it involves an intentional decision to let go of resentment and anger.”
When we choose to hold onto that resentment, we are not hurting the other person; we are  hurting ourselves. A lot. There are numerous studies that show the effects of unforgiveness on mental health as well as emotional and physical health. 
When we hold grudges we become an angry person. It doesn’t stay an isolated act. Sound extreme?  How many people do you know who are grumpy most of the time? They are angry at the world. Their favorite topic of conversation seems to be how badly they have been treated by some person, institution or company, or government. 
Who we become happens over time by our habits of thought. 
Other damage to our mental health includes depression, anxiety and isolation. These all affect our relationships in one way or another. 
The Mayo clinic article goes on to list some of the benefits of forgiving someone:
  • Healthier relationships.
  • Improved mental health.
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility.
  • Fewer symptoms of depression.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • A stronger immune system.
  • Improved heart health.
  • Improved self-esteem.
Recently I heard someone talk about the connection between forgiveness and joy. I experienced this myself in a pretty dramatic way.
Someone who had knowingly wronged me showed up at an event unexpectedly. I thought I had forgiven her. I had chosen forgiveness whenever I thought of her. But when I saw her there, I felt really angry.
In my gut I was still holding onto bitterness against her. I was sitting a few rows back from her for the length of the event, about an hour and a half. I knew I needed to forgive her. But something inside of me couldn’t let go. For the entire time I couldn’t think of anything else. I wrestled with my emotions. I prayed. I couldn’t muster it up. I kept praying. 
Finally, about 15 minutes before the event was over, I suddenly felt a release. All of the anger was gone. I felt free. Really free. I couldn’t wait for the event to end so I could go to her and say hello and give her a hug. Complete change.
And I did. As soon as it ended I made a bee-line for her, smiled and gave her a hug. She looked a bit stunned. It had been years since we had had any contact. After a few minutes of small talk I left.
It is hard to describe what I felt walking to my car. It was a mixture of extreme joy and freedom. I wanted to skip and leap and run.  
We all have the opportunity to make forgiveness a way of life.  Our experiences will not always be this dramatic, and they won’t always take away the pain.  But forgiveness will free us from the imprisonment that we take on when we fail to extend it.
This is an area where I coach clients. I have seen joy and peace as they experience the freedom of forgiveness. Click here to book a complimentary initial consultation with me. 


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