Give yourself a gift

Kari Swanson

Forgiveness is one of those things that has always been “easier said than done.” Until I realized that forgiveness really has nothing to do about the other person and everything to do with myself.

When we are angry with others for hurting us, we tend to harbor resentment and that resentment thus changes who we are in relation to those that have done us wrong.

Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

His words are true.

Resentment and bitterness about others only hurt us. It robs us from peace and changes the core of who we are if we let it. Forgiveness is hard. Being angry is easy. When people think of forgiveness, they sometimes feel that it is a way for the other person to get off the hook for their hurtful actions.

The truth is that forgiveness actually frees ourselves of the negative energies that can forever bind us to the person that wronged us. When we allow other’s actions to negatively impact us, we continually give power to that person.

People who hate, have significant anger issues, or harbor bitterness and resentment tend to have greater health issues such as headaches, heart issues, strokes, weakened immune systems, anxiety, and depression. These are certainly not things any of us would choose to have but really, when we hold resentment and anger we are, in essence, choosing these health issues. We are choosing to change who we are by not being our “normal” selves in the presence of those who hurt us. We are not at peace.

Forgiveness offers peace. Not necessarily to the person that hurt you, but to you.

Would you rather choose peace or stay angry and bitter?

One quote I like is from an anonymous writer that says, “I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry and accept an apology I never received.”

Instead of someone asking for forgiveness and wanting to continue to be in your life, this person either a) doesn’t recognize they wronged you or b) really doesn’t care. I’m not sure which is worse, but the bottom line is you feel wronged and will receive nothing to make it better from the other person.

You have choices.

You can continue to harbor resentment and anger and allow it to destroy you or you can choose in your heart to forgive the other person and move on from the ugliness towards peace. Certainly not easy. We all have choices. We are not owned by any one person to feel or think or act because someone “did” something to us. We can make choices that better our relationships and better our own lives.

Forgiveness does not mean you necessarily go back to the relationship with the other person the way it was before you were wronged.

Again, you have choices. You can choose to have boundaries in the relationship. You can choose to have no relationship at all which does not mean you haven’t forgiven just that you need to not have a relationship any longer with this particular person. You are allowed to decide for yourself what is tolerable and “okay” for you with respect to past hurts.

We all need to remember that our words and actions can cause pain to others and can only possibly be forgiven but not forgotten.

Depending upon the amount of hurt and length of time of the hurt the relationship may never go back to “normal.” You may need to establish a “new normal” for the relationship if you choose to continue the relationship.

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.

This holiday season, if you are holding onto past resentments and bitterness, give yourself this gift of forgiveness so that you can open up peace and share with the world the “real” you.

Kari Swanson is a Master’s level clinician with 25 years of working in the mental health field. She is the founder of CORE–Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences which is a non-profit organization with the mission to provide mental health awareness and suicide prevention education to Warren County.