Everyone has been faced with some sort of painful situation that has resulted in anger, sadness, rage, and guilt. Kim discusses some powerful reasons as to why you should forgive the person that has wronged you. Here’s a hint: The forgiveness is for YOU– not the other person!
The Power of Forgiveness
By: Kim Openo, LAPC, NCC
In one of the last episodes of the Walking Dead, viewers watched as Tyrese forgave Carol for a violent act that killed the woman he loved. Tyrese was obsessed and in an intense rage for weeks about finding the person who committed the act and bringing them to equal justice. Finally, it takes some particularly intense shared circumstances with Carol to bring Tyrese’s forgiveness. But in the end Tyrese forgives Carol. He states, “It is a part of you now. Me, too. I forgive you.”
Back in reality, we do NOT live in a land where zombies have taken over the world leaving humanity to fight for survival. Yet, there are many of us that do live in a place of obsession, rage, and pain, like the character of Tyrese from the Walking Dead. The intense negative feelings that plague some might be due to childhood pain or neglect that was inflicted by an abusive adult. Other people may have gone through infidelity, a painful divorce or breakup, or had undeserved hardship placed on them despite living a life of being kind to others. These types of circumstances can cause bitterness and hostility in a person that leaks into other areas of the individual’s life. Lack of forgiveness does not stop after it is inflected toward the person or event of the original painful situation. There are MANY reasons that individuals are upset and not able to say “I forgive you”.
But why should we forgive? If someone was cruel, neglectful, mean, has betrayed, or otherwise hurt you, why should you forgive them? Here are several reasons that it is better to forgive someone than to risk carrying the pain around inside you:
- Forgiveness takes down the wall of defensiveness. The defense wall keeps out more than just the hurt from the original offense. While the wall keeps out pain, the problem is that it also keeps out empathy, love, and compassion. Forgiveness allows a person to receive love, which means it is much easier to give love in return. Holding a grudge keeps your heart cold.
- Forgiveness is brave. When you forgive someone & the wall that defended you begins to crumble, you become vulnerable again to pain. This is a very courageous act! Being vulnerable to another person takes a mighty person with a strong will to enjoy life.
- Forgiveness gives better overall health. Research has shown that those that can let go of past wrongs have lower blood pressure, sleep better, and have less anxiety and depression than those that hold grudges. It helps a person focus less energy on pain and more on happiness.
- Forgiveness gives resolution. Remember you are not forgetting what someone or something did that hurt you. Learn the lesson from the experience, gain from it what you need, and determine that you will move on to the next part of your life knowing that you can do better than the last relationship, job, friendship, or experience.
- Forgiveness can give empowerment. When you forgive someone or an experience, the power of happiness and control of the situation comes back to you. When you expend energy being furious or angry with someone else, your life authority belongs to them. Forgiveness gives that power back.
- Forgiveness feels freeing. Clients say that it feels as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders and others say they literally feel “off the hook”. A sense of freedom comes with forgiveness. Again, it is not forgetting the situation so that you make the same mistakes, but more just forgiving so that you have the freedom to move on with your life without a large weight or hook keeping you from moving forward.
In coming back to the story of Tyrese and Carol, Tyrese had a choice of finding out who was responsible for taking Karen from him and avenging her death or forgiving Carol and moving forward. Tyrese released himself from the nightmare of revenge and gave himself the freedom to move forward. He realizes that revenge and bitterness were not going to move him in a place he wanted to go – even in a land of the undead. Forgiveness takes strength, courage, and maturity, but it is worth it to gain freedom and personal power.