“Forgiveness is both a decision and a real change in emotional experience. That change in emotion is related to better mental and physical health.”
– Dr. Everett L. Washington, Jr., Director of Campaign for Forgiveness Research
June 26th is Global Forgiveness Day. It’s a time to forgive and be forgiven. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Instead, it is an internal process to cognitively and emotionally come to terms with previously experienced pain and bitterness. Behaviors do not define a person and Global Forgiveness Day is a time to help us see past our own experience, past the behaviors, and see individuals for who they really are. Whether that individual is a loved one, or yourself it’s a time to let go of any resentment or pain we might be holding on to. Self-reflection, insight and setting boundaries all contribute towards active and healthy forgiveness. It is a path to healing and serenity that begins with compassion. In its fullest capacity, forgiveness is a form of liberation.
For many people, the journey towards recovery and healing can often be encountered with roadblocks of blame and resentment, either upon oneself or others. Not only is it important to be able to forgive other people, but it is also vital that the individual learns to forgive themselves in recovery. Guilt can prevent people from finding comfort in healing. The struggle for self-forgiveness may often result in a relapse. Low self esteem can also contribute to individuals not valuing themselves highly enough to feel worthy of forgiveness.
Through forgiveness, many people (and their families) find the ability to improve their own lives because they are letting go of negativity that has probably been holding them back. It reduces levels of stress and helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, in addition to improved mental health. Finding ways to work through longstanding and unexpressed feelings of resentment, anger, guilt or remorse can feel like a breath of fresh air and a new start to healing.
Letting go also means relearning. By practicing forgiveness, emotional sobriety can also be achieved, and this can also lead to improved interpersonal relationships with family members and loved ones. Being kind to oneself includes setting realistic and achievable goals in recovery. Forgiveness is a reminder that we can consciously release the burden of pain and negative judgements that block us from living healthy and fulfilling lives. Healthy forgiveness is contemplative work that can be adapted on a daily basis, starting from with oneself.
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