“To err is human; to forgive, infrequent.”
– Franklin P. Adams

Maybe it was the relative who said something hurtful, the co-worker who stole credit for your idea, or the lover who cheated on you. Whatever happened, you were left feeling angry, hurt, and bitter, and you have held onto those emotions, in some cases for years.

But a grudge is no life preserver. It’s not a healthy thing to hang onto. In fact, holding grudges can harm you both physically and mentally.

When you hold a grudge, your body behaves as if it’s under stress, with the stress hormones kicking into high gear. This can raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, and lower your immune system. It can also steal your energy and set you up for depression and other mental health problems.

By contrast, when you release a grudge your blood pressure goes down, your heart rate drops, and you are less likely to have psychological symptoms.

Forgiveness is not always easy to achieve. It may take time and effort on your part, and you have to be ready to do the work. But if you succeed, it can have real benefits for your own well-being.

Understanding forgiveness
Forgiveness is letting go of anger and resentment about past events. It does not mean you forget what happened or that you approve of what was done. It means altering how you view the situation. You can’t change what happened, but you can change your attitude about it and reduce its power over you.

Forgiveness is not done for the person who harmed you but to help you. The goal is to free yourself of the negative consequences of carrying anger inside you.

If you are in an abusive relationship, though, your main focus should be on getting out of the situation for good. You can work on forgiveness later, when you are safe.

Letting go
Try these tips to help you let go of a grudge:

  • Write down your thoughts and emotions. Think about what upset you and how it makes you feel. Writing can help you get perspective on the event.
  • Try to understand what happened. Often people do and say hurtful things without thinking of the harm they can cause. They may later regret their actions. Chances are you’ve done this yourself. If you think of a time you hurt someone, it may help you understand what happened. Understanding does not mean you approve.
  • Decide if you are ready to forgive. Sometimes it takes a long time to get to this point. Being ready is the biggest step to forgiveness.
  • Don’t wait for an apology. Remember, this is an internal process, something you are doing for yourself. You do not need to have a relationship with the person to practice forgiveness.
  • Work through the emotions. It may help to write about your feelings, pray, or meditate.
  • Seek support if you need it. You may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or a therapist. Someone who is neutral may help you gain new insight.

Ron Huxley Relates: It is amazing how many of our parenting problems have to do with things we don’t typically think of as “parenting”. Unforgiveness can be one of the biggest hindrances to relating to our children and partner.

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