“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” We’ve all heard this popular saying before. But what does it actually mean? Learn about the power of forgiveness, and how it can change your life for the better.
The Power of Forgiveness
Let’s face it: As hard as you try to be a good person, there’s probably at least one other person in this world who gets under your skin. Maybe they’re intentionally unkind to you, or maybe they’re just a little thoughtless sometimes. Either way, it can be a difficult thing to keep turning the other cheek when someone frustrates or disappoints you. After all, we’re only human.
However, you might feel differently about those people once you learn about the power of forgiveness. It might feel good in the moment to nurse a petty grudge, but in the long run, it can hurt you a lot more than it hurts the other person. Researchers have found that clinging to old resentments can have a profound negative effect on your mental health. Meanwhile, those who intentionally practice forgiveness have an easier time letting go of past resentments and disappointments.
No matter what’s happened in the past, you deserve to enjoy your golden years to the fullest. If you feel trapped in anger or frustration, learning how to forgive can literally set you free. So, how can you embrace the power of forgiveness?
The REACH Method of Finding Forgiveness
Deciding to forgive someone for a past slight is only one step on the path to forgiveness. In order to truly let go, you have to process your emotions as well. Researchers at Harvard Medical School recommend using the REACH method for times when forgiveness is difficult:
- Recall what happened to hurt your feelings in an objective way. Try to focus on what you experienced and what specific feelings resulted. The goal is not to dwell on bad feelings, but to acknowledge and validate the information they are giving you so you can move on from them.
- Empathize with the person who hurt your feelings. This can be difficult if you’re still upset, but it can also help you ground your feelings in reality and help you let go of your pain. You don’t need to downplay or minimize the way you were hurt, but it can be helpful to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand what occurred from their perspective.
- Altruistic gifts of forgiveness are the next step. Think of a time that you made a similar mistake or error to the one you’re hurt over. Remembering that we’re all human and we all make mistakes is important, and remembering that forgiveness is a gift you can give will help you feel good about letting go of the hurt and moving on.
- Commit to your forgiveness. Again, you don’t have to pretend you were never hurt, but you do have to decide it’s time to let this particular issue go. This is a great opportunity to journal out your feelings, or even write a letter to the person you are forgiving where you tell them it’s time to put your frustrations to rest. (Don’t send the letter, though — this is just for you!)
- Hold on to your forgiveness. Remember it’s a gift you’re giving to someone else, and stay committed to giving that gift. When bad feelings come up, let yourself feel them, but you can also tell yourself that it’s time to let them go. Over time, your emotions will catch up with you.
Forgiveness can be a tricky thing, but embracing it is the best way to let go of past difficulties and live your current life exactly as you want to. Forgiveness is a gift you can choose to give to others, but it’s also ultimately a gift you give yourself.
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