People argue, people disagree and more often than you might like, people will disappoint you. But if you want to live a happy life that isn’t filled with anger and frustration, you need to learn how to forgive someone and move past your confrontations, toward a happier, more accepting place. You need to forgive, not just for your mental and emotional wellbeing, but also for the sake of your physical health. As Psychology Today reports, according to Thomas G. Plante Ph.D., adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, “learning to forgive is good for both our mental and physical health. Quality empirical research has shown that when we are better at forgiveness we experience lower stress, tension, levels of depression, anxiety, and perhaps most important, anger.”
So clearly if you want to minimize anger, stress and suffering in your life, you need to learn how to forgive, and the good news is that it’s easier than you might think. Even though most of us are probably struggling to forgive someone in our life right now (guilty), there are some simple steps that can help you get over the forgiveness hump.
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For starters, it helps to actually admit you are angry about something. Letting those emotions bottle up inside until you are so pissed you might explode is definitely not healthy, and it’s definitely not going to help you work through your frustrations. The first step is to admit how you are feeling, out loud, so someone (anyone) can hear you. Acknowledge the incident that angered you, recognize how it made you feel, and give yourself permission to react. Once you appropriately respond and you face the reality of the situation you can start to move on.
Next when it comes to how to forgive someone, think about the other person in this situation that has caused you pain or anger. They are not perfect. Newsflash: neither are you. We are all flawed, we all make mistakes and we will all cause someone else pain at some point in our lives. It’s no excuse for someone treating you badly, but be realistic about your expectations of the people in your life. Think back to a time when you might have upset someone you care about or you may have said something hurtful. Did you deserve forgiveness for your mistake? Of course. And while no one can demand forgiveness, and not all people might deserve it, it can help to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider where they were coming from.
Recognize that forgiveness is a process. It will take work and time to forgive and forget. And to that point, forgiving someone is also not the same thing as forgetting what happened. You can accept a situation, decide that you want to move forward, choose to be happy and then forgive someone who caused you harm. But all the while, it’s OK, and maybe even important, to remember what they did and how it made you feel. Remembering your experiences, your emotions, and the way you reacted to those situations is how you grow and learn as a human. You may never forget, but if you never forgive, you also never move forward.
Forgiveness will help you ease current frustrations and avoid future conflicts. Joe Wilner, life coach and Licensed Master Level Psychologist, argues “it becomes very difficult to have a productive relationship when we can’t move past the emotional pain someone may have caused us. It’s through forgiveness that we can strive to mend relationships.” So if you want to ensure a strong, healthy, loving relationship in the future, you need to focus on forgiveness. When you are blinded by your anger and you cannot look past the ways a spouse, relative, friend or colleague caused you harm, think about how you want to relationship to look years from now. Do you still want to be chained to that same anger? If the answer is no, then you’re moving in the right direction.
Remember that forgiveness does NOT mean that you are accepting what made you feel angry, upset, victimized or abused. You’re not trying to make the perpetrator feel better. It’s the opposite, actually. When you forgive and forget, you are not condoning their behavior or supporting their actions; you are simply looking out for yourself, your loved ones and your future. Don’t forget your ultimate goal—your own happiness—especially when it feels hard to see past your anger and hurt.