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When we forgive someone, it doesn't mean that what they've done is OK. It means we don't carry bitterness about their actions, and that frees us of the power they had over us. The person may never acknowledge the hurt they caused us, but if we hold on to that hurt and anger, we are hurting ourselves.
"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." ~ Saint Augustine
It is important to clarify here that I'm talking about forgiving someone who has harmed you AFTER you get yourself to safety. Forgiveness is not a healthy practice if it's keeping you in an abusive situation.
Forgiveness has multiple health benefits, including better sleep, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, less chronic pain, more energy and a longer life expectancy.
‘Forgiveness is aptly described as “a change of heart”,’ wrote Kathleen Lawler when she summarized a series of her studies on the impact of forgiveness on cardiac health.
At Duke University, researchers found a strong correlation between forgiveness and improved immune system function.
It may be that forgiveness of ONESELF is more important to health-related outcomes than other forms of forgiveness, but it is much more complicated because when you offend yourself, you are both the victim and the perpetrator. The problem is compounded by the fact that we rarely offend ourselves in isolation from offending others and because true self-forgiveness requires stopping the behavior that led to the offense.
Robert Enright, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, recommends that people struggling with self-forgiveness start with learning to forgive others first, then expand the practice to include themselves.
Specific steps towards forgiveness include feeling the emotions you authentically feel, expressing them to someone with whom you feel safe, then taking action to leave them in the past where they no longer have power over you.
Time alone does not heal all wounds. Sometimes letting go of hurt and anger takes work. If we find ourself wanting to forgive but not able to get there, help is available. Contact a nurse coach today.
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