To forgive may be divine, but no one ever said it was easy. When someone has deeply hurt you, it can be extremely difficult to let go of your grudge. But forgiveness is possible -- and it can be surprisingly beneficial to your physical and mental health.
"People who forgive show less depression, anger and stress and more hopefulness," says Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., author of Forgive for Good (HarperCollins, 2002). "So it can help save on the wear and tear on our organs, reduce the wearing out of the immune system and allow people to feel more vital.
" So how do you start the healing? Try following these steps:
Calm yourself. To defuse your anger, try a simple stress-management technique. "Take a couple of breaths and think of something that gives you pleasure: a beautiful scene in nature, someone you love," Luskin says.
Don't wait for an apology. "Many times the person who hurt you has no intention of apologizing," Luskin says. "They may have wanted to hurt you or they just don't see things the same way. So if you wait for people to apologize, you could be waiting an awfully long time." Keep in mind that forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person who upset you or condoning of his or her action.
Take the control away from your offender. Mentally replaying your hurt gives power to the person who caused you pain. "Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you," Luskin says.
Try to see things from the other person's perspective. If you empathize with that person, you may realize that he or she was acting out of ignorance, fear -- even love. To gain perspective, you may want to write a letter to yourself from your offender's point of view.
Recognize the benefits of forgiveness. Research has shown that people who forgive report more energy, better appetite and better sleep patterns.
Don't forget to forgive yourself. "For some people, forgiving themselves is the biggest challenge," Luskin says. "But it can rob you of your self-confidence if you don''t do it."