Written by Ashlee Cantrell, LPC-A
Last week, we talked about the true meaning of forgiveness. Let’s recap. Forgiveness means letting yourself release the negativity you might hold towards the people who have hurt you, letting go of bitterness and anger, and allowing yourself to feel at peace—regardless of whether the person apologizes or not. Forgiveness may also mean repeating this same process but to yourself, in a self-forgiving manner, by accepting responsibility for your actions and learning from personal mistakes. Overall, we have learned that forgiveness is to help guide us towards a peaceful mindset. But is it completely necessary? Is it possible to live a peaceful life without forgiveness? Well, let’s find out.
How Does This Affect Me?
Depending on what has happened to you past or present, any harmful event can give rise to a potential set of negative emotions and behaviors. This is especially true when the event is triggered by someone special to us, like a family member, a friend, or a loved one. Let’s look at some responses that may occur after a negative event:
- Emotional/physical pain
At times, these symptoms can be the starting points to much more serious ailments such as depression, anxiety, and other health issues. Can you think of any other symptoms that can occur for dealing with pain? Maybe we can discuss it together. If you were able to recognize any of these responses in yourself, don’t worry! Change is possible. Recognition is a positive step towards recognizing a need for peace. We must recognize when it is time to step away from negativity in life and, instead, step towards healthy connections. A healthy first step in this process is forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the hardest tasks to accomplish, but it is one of the most freeing and beneficial skills to have. Last week, we discussed how to accomplish this skill but what are the benefits? Let’s talk about it!
- Healthier relationships
- Improved stress
- Improved hostility levels
- Decreased depression
- Decreased anxiety
- Better mental health
- Living in the present
- Improved health
What is Stopping Me?
At this point, we know what forgiveness means, we know how to forgive in theory, and we know the risks and the benefits. However, there may be a feeling deep inside telling you that forgiveness is just not the answer. Why? Let’s take a quick history lesson. In AD 590, Pope Gregory I of the Catholic faith revised a list of what we now know to be the “seven deadly sins.” Of that list, three “sins” are most often seen in individuals who have difficulty using forgiveness in their everyday lives; these “sins” are labeled as “wrath,” “envy,” and “pride.” Wrath is described as feelings of anger, rage, and sometimes hatred. At times, wrath reveals itself by the need or wish to seek vengeance or cause harm to others. Envy is described as feelings of sadness or resentfulness towards the traits or possessions of another. Oftentimes, envy can lead to unhappiness in the perpetrator, providing the urge to inflict harm onto others, revenge-like activities, and hatred of another. Pride is described as excessively or obsessively connected to the self and the ego. Oftentimes this can lead to selfishness, lack of healthy connections with others, self-righteousness, and sometimes narcissism. Do you resonate with any of these? Each of these characteristics may cause issues when forgiveness is brought up. Because of this, it is important that we allow each person to feel safe and process their feelings appropriately without judgment.
So, Where Do I Start?
If you were able to recognize any personal connection to the information above or want to learn more about how to forgive, you are on the path to becoming free. Recognizing your need for peace and making the decision to forgive is the first step. Whether you are making the decision to forgive a family member, a friend, or even yourself, choosing to take that first step will lead you in a positive direction. As mentioned previously, learning the process of forgiveness is a difficult task to go it alone. Well, you’re not alone and you don’t have to be. Upstate Restorative Counseling has created a counseling group specifically to help adults (18+) just like you who struggle with forgiveness and finding inner peace. Our group, called FREEd and Forgiven, is a 6-week processing group that helps with a basic understanding of forgiveness, and how to practice forgiveness based on Ripley and Worthington’s (2014) forgiveness and reconciliation through experiencing empathy (FREE) model. More information to come. **
Forgiveness is a touchy subject, but not impossible. Regardless of what triggers you, scares you, or runs you away from the idea of forgiveness, know that there is the comfort of wellness and you do not have to do it alone. If there is hope in you that forgiveness is possible, join us for our counseling group at Upstate Restorative Counseling. If group counseling is not your cup of tea but you still seek professional help, URC is still here for you!