The decision to forgive is the only way out of the debilitating prison of anger and bitterness, bringing us inner peace.
Doesn’t it feel so good to be mad sometimes?
Someone rudely cuts you off in traffic, making you slam on the brakes to narrowly avoid a crash.
It’s hard to shake the shock (what just happened???), the incredulity (what was he thinking?!), and the indignation (I oughta give him a piece of my mind or choice finger!).
I confess, I haven’t actually owned a car in several years since I’m a city-dweller in Washington, DC. But I bike to work and that is a harrowing obstacle course all its own.
I’ve been nearly picked off by several inattentive or impatient drivers, so I’m hyper-vigilant to avoid getting nailed.
My point is that I’ve had those same reactions and feelings during my own commute.
That anger feels far more empowering and satisfying than feeling shaken and powerless.
Anger Feels So Right, How Can It Be wrong?
But we’ve all experienced far worse hurts and betrayals by people we’ve been close to and trusted.
In those instances, we feel perhaps blind-sided, confused, unfairly wronged, saddened, hurt, rejected, depressed, devastated, victimized, and/or angry.
How could they do this to us? How could they be so cruel and heartless?
Our world gets flipped upside down. It’s deeply disorienting . . . we might even feel heart-broken.
Once we reach the anger stage, it again feels much more energizing and empowering than depression and helplessness. It’s a real high!
Anger also feels very justified. Often we can’t wait tell others about our experience and get their support and confirmation about how horrible the offender(s)/jerk(s) is and how we’ve been so wronged.
That validation feels comforting and sometimes riles us up even more. Our blood begins to boil. . . .
Now revenge is in order. We may want to make the offender(s)/jerk(s) pay for what they’ve done to us.
They can’t get off scot-free! Thankfully, at the very least, Karma will get’em back one way or another!
What Good Has Forgiveness Done Me?
I’m making light of the situation, yet anything that disturbs our peace of mind and festers is serious.
And going through all of the emotions above and stages of grief is very important. To deny and repress how we feel is just as harmful as harboring a long-term grievance or injury.
At the same time, I know that it takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to continually nurture a grievance: to replay the incident, to experience that hurt and outrage, and to desire pay back.
It becomes physically draining and unsustainable, especially for those of us prone to rumination (not a recommendable past-time!).
We end up dragging the past around, like a heavy ball and chain, and lose the present moment. In other words, we are the prisoner of anger and resentment.
But wait. There’s more! The other not-so-great effects of holding onto an upset or grievance—brought to us by the Mayo Clinic—include:
- Carrying anger and bitterness into all of our relationships and new experiences
- Becoming anxious and depressed
- Losing valuable connections with others
- Feeling at odds with our spiritual beliefs and/or that our life lacks meaning/purpose
Forgiveness Is the Only Way Out
I may be biased as A Course in Miracles student, but I’ve personally experienced that forgiveness is the only way out of the prison of anger and resentment.
For the time being, I’ll define forgiveness as an internal process to let go of that anger and resentment, bringing us greater inner peace. Don’t worry—we’ll delve into this more in the future!
So not only does the process of forgiveness bring us greater inner peace, but also other fantastic door prizes.
Again from the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Healthier interpersonal relationships
- Improved mental health
- Reduced, anxiety, stress, and hostility
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Lower blood pressure
- A stronger immune system
- Enhanced heart health
- Improved self-esteem
Forgiveness Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Forgiveness doesn’t circumvent feeling upset or angry or mean that we now have to love those who hurt us. That’s too big an ask and unnecessary.
The full range of emotions that come up are natural and healthy.
The beauty of forgiveness is that it shortens the time we feel upset, no matter if we’re mildly annoyed or totally enraged. We can bounce back more quickly.
Ultimately, we receive the psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits of forgiveness—it’s not done for the sake of the other party or to even reconcile. Although, if you do reconcile, that’s a bonus!
Just keep in mind that forgiveness is an internal journey, so we may feel better and then get triggered once again. Wherever we are on the path is perfectly fine.
We’re in great shape if we keep working through it, and it helps enormously if we can see the lesson from our experience (life is a big classroom). A good friend, mental health professional, or spiritual counselor can be a great support and provide insights.
Remember, anger and resentment may feel justified and intoxicating for a while, but it keeps us imprisoned in the long-run until we make the decision for our freedom through forgiveness.
In upcoming articles, we’ll explore all this further, along with why forgiveness is justified and the forgiveness process.
These ideas are also fleshed out in my co-authored book that I’ll be sharing, The Pulse of Your Thoughts, coming out in 2020. I will keep you posted!
Meanwhile, have you had your own forgiveness challenges and hiccups?
Is there something keeping you from making the decision to forgive?
We’re all in this together! 🙂