Forgiveness is, ultimately, one of the most difficult and paradoxical things we can do: in forgiving others, we free ourselves from the burden of resentment. Yet it remains difficult for many.
It is often thought that to forgive is to say that the harmful event was acceptable; that what happened is all right. It is thought that to forgive is to forget, and put the past behind us. But this could not be further from the truth. Forgiveness is a separate word from “acceptance” and “forgetfulness” because it does not mean those things.
To forgive is merely to acknowledge that something happened, and to let go of its destructive influence in our lives. It does not condone or absolve, it merely releases.
Despite this, forgiveness is not easy. One must accept that something has happened and then release that hurt and anger. To forgive isn’t so much for the benefit of the other party as it is for our own. When we hold onto the wrongs and hurts we have experienced, we allow ourselves to wallow in sadness, anxiety and depression. To forgive is a kind of healing that we grant ourselves because despite the fact that we have been wronged, we deserve happiness.
Though difficult, we should all try to be aware of the things we hold on to. Forgiveness does not absolve, it does not mean that there will be no consequences; it does not mean that the other party should not be sorry or that we cannot act on the wrong. But forgiveness sheds the mantle of depression, anxiety and grief that can overwhelm and lead to mental health problems.
The next time you find yourself holding on to something: acknowledge the harm, deal with it however best suits the situation and then let go of resentment. That is a kind of self-love that releases the possibility of succumbing to anxiety, helplessness and depression.
There are things we all hold on to. It is time to acknowledge them, learn from them and then let go of the resentment to which we are entitled, because we deserve better.