The holidays are known to be an especially difficult time for many people due to the stress of family events and societal pressures. The origins of thanksgiving comes from being thankful for what we have. Instead of spending time worrying about the small things you can’t control, use this holiday as a chance to practice forgiveness. Work on forgiving a family member or friend and ask their forgiveness in return. Johns Hopkins1 establishes, “Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.”
The following process offers suggestions to guide forgiveness:
- Identify the Person: While this may seem easy, life is not simple. There are often numerous people involved and identifying the one you want to forgive may take contemplation. Consider starting with someone easier to forgive, like a cousin who owes you money, and build to the offenders of larger concerns.
- Move Through the Full Range of Emotions: What did this person do? How did it affect you? Is it still affecting you? Can you deal with the issue and get closure? Friends, family, and professional therapists are great resources to turn to. If your issue is with a family member, then invite a unrelated friend for coffee to talk it through you prior to the holiday gathering. The act of discussing and working through a situation with another human being helps you to explore, process, and deal with the issue.
- Forgive Yourself: Often times, forgiving starts within. You need to forgive yourself for holding on to it, being upset, and allowing it to affect your life.
- Work to Forgive the Offender: Next, work on letting the feelings of negativity toward the person release. This can be an internal process you go through or can lead to a conversation with that person. The takeaway is to stop blaming the offender and to find peace with the situation.
The concept of choosing to forgive or to seek revenge through anger is an important decision when distressed. Revenge and anger, whether it be against someone else or self-deprecating, is easy because it provides instant gratification2. However, choosing to forgive another or yourself is a longer process where results can take weeks, months or even years to be change your disposition. In order to fully heal, forgiving is the answer. The process of learning to forgive provides the time to sort out and deal with the events, which lead you to be upset, allowing time to fully process the gravity of the issue. Revenge or blaming yourself may feel better in the moment, but you will not be able to heal and move on until you’ve dealt with the complexity of the issue at hand.
1. Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2017, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it↩
2. Orloff, J. (2011, September 08). The Power of Forgiveness: Why Revenge Doesn’t Work. Retrieved November 19, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201109/the-power-forgiveness-why-revenge-doesnt-work↩