In my life, I have often been told that when someone is hurt, there is a two-step process for moving forward: someone must apologize, and the other must accept that apology. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this method, research finds that forgiveness impacts our well-being. What does forgiveness really mean? The field of psychology defines forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release resentment toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness.
One of the most transformational things you can do is to forgive someone, even when they don’t ask for it. This idea would require us to skip past one of the two essential steps taught to us most of our lives. It is asking us to forgive altruistically. When someone has harmed us significantly, this is an incredibly bold and challenging thing to do. Remember that forgiveness does not mean you forgo your boundaries or even allow this person back into your life. It is simply the process of letting go of your hurt and anger.
In a world where conflict and harm have become increasingly commonplace, a recent study
sought to quantify the impact of forgiveness. This study, across several countries and languages, asked half of the participants to complete a workbook
with exercises and prompts to allow exploration of feelings of anger and resentment based on the REACH Model. The goal was to help them to let go of those feelings. After two weeks, the study showed that this intervention not only improved forgiveness but produced a statistically meaningful reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety
. Given the current trends in mental health, this intervention is quite extraordinary in its accessibility and simplicity.
R - Recall the hurt: Face that you have been hurt, but make a decision to forgive and not pursue retaliation
E - Empathize: Work to understand why you may have been wronged, allowing you to heal from hurt and give forgiveness
A - Altruistic gift: Forgive unselfishly
C - Commit: Write a note to yourself about who you forgave to help the forgiveness last
H - Hold onto forgiveness
Since hurt is a universally acknowledged part of the human experience, we can all recall a situation in which we have unresolved resentment. However, it is also important to remember that forgiveness and a desire for justice are not mutually exclusive
, for it is not an act that serves the other party. Instead, forgiveness is a gift to yourself