Sometimes people hurt us. Anthropologists have spent centuries studying and questioning why humans inflict pain—emotional or otherwise—on each other. In the professional world, a study showed that “nearly 94% out of 2081 employees said they had been bullied in the workplace.” That’s an incredibly difficult statistic to swallow. Toxic environments should never be tolerated and a personal coach can help you figure out the best way for you to handle any unpleasant situations you wish to improve. After you have been successful in reclaiming a safe space for you, next comes an important step in your own healing: forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult, especially when we’ve been hurt, but here are some reasons why forgiveness is good for you—both for your peace of mind and for your heart.
1. Physical Health
Believe it or not, studies show that forgiveness greatly impacts your physical health. The American Psychological Association published an article detailing how a lack of forgiveness increases stress in the body and how that increased stress has negative physical effects. Mayo Health Clinic also recognizes lower blood pressure, greater physical heart health, and a stronger immune system as three physical advantages to forgiveness. Johns Hopkins Medicine even reports a positive increase in the benefits of forgiveness on our health as we age! How is it possible that forgiveness provides all of these amazing health benefits to our physical health? According to the same report, “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” Therefore, forgiveness improves physical health and, inversely, a lack of forgiveness is a drastic detriment to physical health. The human body makes it pretty clear which path we should take when it comes to forgiveness.
2. Mental Health
Mental health is also positively affected by forgiveness. Harvard Health Publishing says, “Observational studies, and even some randomized trials, suggest that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction.” Anger is normal and natural, but anger that festers too long inside without forgiveness will eventually harm you emotionally. Though forgiveness can be very difficult, Psychology Today notes that both forgiveness and lack of forgiveness affect our overall mental health. The good news is that you are ultimately in control of how you approach forgiveness and its impact on your mental health. One way to approach what is best for you when it comes to forgiveness is to meditate, specifically on forgiveness, to understand the root of why you are still upset. Mindful.org says “Anger and resentment simmer and grow, while compassionate resolve allows us to address what needs addressing without slinging additional arrows.” Forgiveness in this way isn’t about the other person at all, it’s about discovering your needs for emotional healing and then figuring out how to put the past behind you. Otherwise, “If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.”
3. A Step in Learning to Forgive Yourself
Sometimes when we’re angry with someone else, we’re also angry with ourselves for allowing them to hurt us. An article in Essence magazine addresses the need to let go of the shame associated with past bad relationships. A study in 2013 showed consistent results that indicated “guilt had a positive association with self-forgiveness, whereas shame was negatively associated with self-forgiveness. Acceptance mediated the guilt and self-forgiveness relationship and had an indirect effect on the shame and self-forgiveness relationship.” This means that recognizing where one was at fault and accepting the need to change helps people forgive themselves and move on to healthier relationships. Shame, on the other hand, makes it difficult to accept the situation and change it for the better. Forgiving someone for what they’ve done wrong helps you to acknowledge what is yours to carry and what is theirs, thereby beginning the process of self-forgiveness and healing. Very Well Mind agrees, saying, “Forgiveness means that you accept the behavior, you accept what has happened, and you are willing to move past it and move on with your life without ruminating over past events that cannot be changed.” As we know from above, that rumination is bad for our mental and physical health. You are in control and a coach can help you first forgive the person who wronged you and then forgive yourself.
Sometimes people hurt us but forgiving them isn’t always about them. Sometimes forgiveness is the best way to move on from the pain and live a better, healthier life.