Perhaps the most disregarded emotion forgiveness is so important to our emotional well-being.
Of course, if we all practised forgiveness what would Hollywood do with all those revenge-motivated movies? Forgiveness is not about the people who hurt us or the situation that caused the hurt, it’s about our reaction to it.
In some cases, we think we have forgiven and moved on, but left behind is a small nugget of pain coated in suppression and left in our minds or bodies to trip us up at a later date.
Forgiveness is about clearing this pain and being free of hurt and this is a good thing for our health and wellbeing.
Who amongst us can say they have never been hurt?
Even if the adult says no, the child within may have a different opinion.
If you are a sensitive soul then a constant barrage of small (and possibly large) hurts can accumulate and wear you down. We are stung when loved ones lash out at us. As parents, we are hurt when our children are angry and take it out on us. We swallow our hurt in many situations where expressing those feelings is counterproductive.
It hurts when your needs aren’t met when you do not feel heard or your efforts are not rewarded.
This can happen at home, at work, among friends and sometimes random strangers who are having a bad day.
We have to live in this world so we stay quiet, feel hurt and eventually say we forgive as the memory dims.
What does holding on to hurt do to us?
Feeling hurt invokes the stress response.
We become hypervigilant in order to catch sight of hurt coming our way so we can head it off. It can cause muscle tension as well, literally flinching at the feeling of hurt.
The pain becomes part of our bodies. When we are hurt quite often it was unintentional and the person who did it is completely unaware.
We become anxious as we think it is us inviting this hurt by our words or behaviours.
We worry and indulge in cyclical thinking as we over analyse everything we said and did so we can do better next time.
We may withdraw from others in order to avoid being hurt or because we feel unworthy.
We might smile and keep the peace until one day, we have had enough and the poisonous hurt feelings spew forth in anger and we pass the hurt to others. This can cause feelings of guilt and we are back to anxiety, self-loathing, and cyclical thinking.
So we have seen what holding on to hurt does to us mentally but what about physically?
Years ago I was diagnosed with gallstones. I did not have a cholesterol problem and they didn’t give me trouble but there they were, sitting in my gall small time bombs.
Now I am a herbalist and I was taught that organs have correlations with emotions and that gall is about old anger. Therefore, gallstones can be seen as old hurts, memories of a time when someone you cared about hurt you.
They are a small lingering reminder even though you thought you had let it go.
I thought about this long and hard because I thought I had moved past being hurt so I named them after people who had hurt me. In so doing I acknowledged them for what they were, and they still give me no trouble.
Arthritis can be linked to holding on because it affects our movement. It literally stops us from moving forward with our lives.
All the illnesses associated with stress can be caused by a lack of forgiveness because holding on to painful memories can cause stress.
Why should we forgive I hear you ask?
We do not forgive for the sake of the people who hurt us.
In many cases, they are completely unaware that their words or behaviour have done any damage.
Sometimes the hurts are so old that we are the only one who remembers.
Sometimes, because of the situation, we are in, it is unsafe to voice those feelings because it can be dangerous.
But as I have said not forgiving hurts as well.
Is there a parent who has not had the emotional equivalent of a kick in the guts by one of their kids and vice versa?
What is there to gain by saying you know what you do hurt me?
You love them and don’t want to hurt them so you say nothing because sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie and move on.
Hanging on to old hurts may stop us from living a better life or finding a life partner because we fear more hurt and pain. We cannot avoid pain in our lives. We can forgive specifically so we do not carry the weight of those accumulated hurts. We forgive to stop feeling bad and live our best lives. We forgive for ourselves.
If we have revenge will that make a difference?
Wouldn’t that make me feel better?
The answer is yes and no. Revenge just keeps the hurt moving around. I hurt you because you hurt me. You hurt me back by hurting my kids so I hurt your kids and on and on it goes.
Where does it stop?
It’s like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples keep spreading and spreading. More people are hurt, nothing is better. Hurt upon hurt piles up on all sides. The original cause of this is forgotten.
To answer the question would getting revenge make me feel better, the answer is no.
It does not help, it hinders. It can take a small thing and turn it into a monument that can never be pulled down.
Who wants to carry that around?
So the answer is yes, revenge makes a difference but it makes a situation worse.
How can we release this hurt and forgive?
There are many ways to do this.
Both Bach and Australian Bush flowers have remedies for forgiveness.
Tapping has methods to help release. I use a fire ritual with my clients which allows them to say what they want to say in a safe way and watch those words go away.
Affirmations are useful to change thought patterns and release hurt. You can visualise yourself cutting ties with toxic people or throwing away the hurts and leaving them behind.
An important person to remember on this forgiveness path is yourself. We need to forgive ourselves for the hurts we have inflicted on others, for the thoughts that are unworthy of us for our guilt and negativity.
If others are deserving of forgiveness so are we.
None of us is, perfect, accomplished and wise all the time.
There will be times when we say or do the wrong thing.
There will be times when others do the same thing.
Most of these things are small blips in our lives and should not have the power to weigh us down.
We should fix what we can, apologise when we should and let go of everything else.
Forgiveness can free us from the past and make us kinder.
Forgiveness can reduce stress and help us heal.
Forgiving does not make us weak, it makes us stronger and healthier.
So next time you feel hurt, just say to yourself I forgive you, for my sake.