“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” -Buddha
Holding onto a grudge is harmful for everyone, but mostly for the person holding it. It raises our blood pressure to feel angry, to feel anxious, and to torment ourselves with thoughts about how someone wronged us. In fact, Harvard University published a study that states angry outbursts actually increase our risk for having a heart attack.
So while you may say, I’m not getting that angry, the fact that anger changes our physiology enough to even increase the risk puts major stress on our body, and that stress builds up over time.
When we choose to forgive others, we set ourselves free, and we set them free as well. We are also taking care of our health in our decision to forgive, mentally and physically.
Sometimes, it’s true, people do really shitty things. People cheat, lie, steal, use and abuse. It’s part of the human condition. Holding on to that, however, does not serve us, them, or humankind.
Think of it like this: Your flight is five hours late. Do you forgo flying altogether? No, you forget it, and accept the imperfect nature of our world, make some adjustments, and you continue with your day. So when someone messes up, do we have to cut them out of our life altogether? Do they have to get the “blacklist,” or can we forgive and move on instead?
This isn’t about allowing yourself to be walked all over or accepting bad behavior. This is really more about forgiving for the sake of letting go. Lighten your load. Release some cortisol. Obviously, depending on the severity of the mistreatment, you ultimately decide who stays in your life. Even if you decide it’s better that someone stays out of it, it’s still beneficial to forgive them.
As we get older, life throws new obstacles at us. We get stronger, and more adept at handling them, but we can become bitter and cynical if we’re not careful.
People don’t hurt other people for fun. People make mistakes, and make choices based on so many factors, and mostly, are doing the best they can. It takes half a second to make a mistake.
It’s never about us. How people treat us and the way people choose to live their lives has nothing to do with us. This is a hard concept to swallow since our egos want us to believe it’s all about us, but it’s not, it never has been, and it never will be.
Your ego wants you to think it’s personal, that so-and-so is out to get you, to harm you, to humiliate you, but your soul knows people are only ever doing the best they can with what they know how.
Now, this isn’t to say that you’re expected to be some zen master, walking through life and never feeling pissed off or hurt by the behavior of other people. You’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get pissed off. That’s human. We’re all making more mistakes than we can even count. As much as we might not want to admit it, people have the capacity to hurt us.
Let yourself feel hurt, process your feelings, and then forgive them. This doesn’t mean you have to let someone back into your life if you don’t want, it just means forgive them in your heart so you don’t have to carry that around.
Like many women, I’ve had my share of traumatic experiences in my life. I carried them around for a long time, ruminating, feeling violated, feeling wounded, feeling broken and scared, and that shit was heavy. When we experience trauma, our brain can sometimes make us relive it so that we are alert and can avoid it in the future. Law of attraction would say that this only attracts more traumatic events to us. Holding onto my anger put a grey haze over my life, it skewed neutral situations and made them seem threatening, and it put me on constant defense. My body held stress and tension constantly. It was exhausting.
This doesn’t just apply to our interpersonal relationships, either. This can be politics or history. Some people refer to this as “ancestral trauma.” Holding on to that pain is not helping. Create, live, and contribute from a place of love, a place of solution, bring a new and better alternative instead of rage about past wrong doings.
So if you’re on board, but you don’t know where to start, here’s some ways you can get around to forgiving:
- Write a letter you don’t send. Air your grievances, state your forgiveness. Then, burn it.
- Whenever you think of the person in question, think to yourself, I forgive you, and really feel it, and visualize them basking in a healing white light and going on to grow.
- Go to therapy. Always wait to find a therapist that feels “right” in your gut, and don’t be scared to move on and find someone that feels like a better fit. The right therapist will help you grieve, accept, and not stay stuck as a victim.
- Make a list of positive outcomes that stemmed from a shitty situation
- Set a “reminder” on your phone that says “Forgive” so you can always remember what your intentions are. Plus, forgiveness is something we need to practice all the time.
- Place reminders in your house that say, “Increased Energy!” so you can remember that you’ll have more energy when you let go of your resentment.
Some may think, this is letting people get away with murder, maybe quite literally, but it’s not. This is about spending your energy wisely. If the injustice of something fires you up, don’t burn your energy being pissed off and posting on Facebook about it. Create solutions, art, volunteer your time and advocate for what you stand for, not what you’re against. Spend your energy creating the world you want. Spend your energy on solutions to the problem, not ruminating over and over again about the problem itself. What we give our attention to grows. Use your attention wisely.
Most of all, though, forgive because you’re going to hurt your back carrying around all that weight. Anger and revenge can’t undo what’s happened. You can’t will someone to change their ways by pissing yourself off with your own thoughts. Do yourself a favor and forgive them, and get on with your life. You’ll have a lot more energy and time to fill it up with the things you want to do. Clear up the space, and declutter your brain. Forgive and let go.