Is it worth holding a grudge?
The hardest part about forgiving is that sometimes we have to accept that we won’t get an apology. Forgiveness will hurt in the short term, but it will liberate us in the long term. Holding a grudge does the opposite: it poisons us over time, though it feels good in the moment.
Forgiveness has tremendous value, as expressed in a poem by Father Moon, founder of the Unification faith, and his life itself, which serves as an example for the freedom we can experience when we choose to forgive. That being said, it can still be tough to apply these principles in our own unique struggles. Rest easy, friends, because we’ve got you covered. Here is our five-step game plan to forgive anyone*!
*Disclaimer: It might take much longer to forgive some people than others, and for sure it is a process that cannot be rushed, because we want the effects to last! But regardless of how long it takes, the process of forgiveness remains the same. Take it one step at a time, and let the healing begin.
1. Focus on achieving a state of calm. There is no way forgiveness can arise in a state of emotional chaos, right? Helping your mind and your body to reach inner peace creates the possibility to extend that peace outward. Try getting unstuck and focused.
2. Observe your emotions. Identify them as something more specific than mad: are you feeling disappointed, betrayed, unwanted or afraid? Verbalizing these emotions with someone you trust can help get past the surface level anger down into the core of the matter.
3. Decide if these emotions are worth keeping. Does clinging to negativity lead to goodness, or does it lead us right back to more feelings of emptiness and loneliness? Surprising as it may sound, a lot of the distress we feel comes from engaging with our negative emotions, and not the thing which offended us. As hard as it may feel to let go of the anger, holding onto it is even more painful and far more damaging. Release the negativity, and reuse this newfound emotional space for positivity.
4. See the person who wronged you as their whole self. Ever notice how a good movie will make you hate the villain, but a great movie will have you sympathizing with the villain? That’s because great movies recognize that every character is a whole person. The same goes for our own lives. When anger consumes us, it is easy to vilify others; whole wars have thrived on the ability of one group to be so angry at another group that they would no longer see that other group as human. Just as we can choose whether or not to hold on to anger, we can choose how we relate with those around us. When thinking about the person who frustrates you, try steering those thoughts in a more positive direction. For example, – Instead of thinking “I wish I could get away from this jerk,” ask yourself, “What does God see in this person that I might be missing?” – Instead of thinking, “How could they be so mean?” try “I wonder if he is going through something painful in his life? How could I help?”
5. Let forgiveness fertilize your personal growth. We cannot change the past, and just as we cannot go back and undo any wrongdoings we might make, neither can those who have wronged us. What we can all do is choose to step forward in positivity. What can we learn from our past that can help us be better people today? We can strive to have more compassionate conversations, surmount our fears, or make less excuses—whatever we choose, it’s a choice for the better! Embarking on the path towards forgiveness is by no means easy, but is always worthwhile. It opens up whole new possibilities for moving towards lasting happiness in our lives. Take a moment to envision the emotional space we create when we choose to let go of resentment; what incredible things could you be doing with that newfound energy and time? Share your thoughts, and your own tips for reaching forgiveness, in the comments below!