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10.13 - October

Emotional well-being
Finding your way to forgiveness

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By Arleen Fitzgerald, L.I.C.S.W.
(Click for author bios in About us)

A partner who cheated. A parent who criticizes. A friend who betrayed.

The worst hurts often come from those we love and trust the most. And, sometimes, that makes them even more difficult to forgive.

So, when someone suggests it's best to let it go, you might wonder, Why should I forgive — when I was so wronged?

The strength of forgiving
It's easy to hold on to anger — especially if you've lived with it for a long time. Not forgiving requires no action. It's like standing in place. Forgiving is moving forward.

That takes work. It takes strength. And, depending on the offense — and the offender — it may require enormous strength. But, finding a way to forgive is worth the effort. That's especially true if it's a relationship and person you value.

But, forgiving doesn't mean you have to excuse the behavior — or even reconcile with the person if you're not comfortable or safe doing so. You accept that you were wronged and deserved better. Your anger was justified. But, now it's time to let it go — for your own sake.

How it's good for you
Living with negative emotions can be hard on your health and well-being. Anger and bitterness are bricks in the wall that separate you from a healthy, joyous life.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, has been shown to:
  • Restore feelings of personal power and control
  • Lower anxiety and stress
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lead to healthier relationships
Making a choice
When you actively decide to let anger and resentment go, it can be liberating. You may find you feel better right away.

But, forgiveness can also be a process — and it may take some time to find your way. Here are a few strategies that may help:
  • Focus on the rewards. Remind yourself of the potential benefits of forgiving — such as peace, healing and greater happiness.
  • Lean on someone. Confide in a caring friend, family member or spiritual adviser about your desire to let go of your hard feelings. Ask for support and encouragement.
  • Do things that make you happy. Tell yourself you'll use the energy you put into being angry to pursue activities you enjoy.
If you can't let it go
Even if you're struggling, don't give up. You may need professional help to work through your emotions. Ask your doctor to recommend a mental health counselor.*

*Check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.
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Asking for forgiveness

Have you let down a friend or loved one? We all make mistakes — and relationships can often survive them. Asking for forgiveness can help the healing start. Try this approach:
  • Be honest with yourself and the person you hurt about what you did. Take responsibility — without making excuses.
  • Sincerely apologize — and ask for forgiveness. But, don't expect to get it immediately. Moving past a painful incident can take some time.
  • Recommit yourself to treating the person with love and respect.