The Science and power of forgiveness


“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” ~Malachy McCourt

Forgiveness is one of the most important spiritual practices we can follow. Yet talk of forgiveness can bring up powerful emotions. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what someone does nor does it mean having to be around the person who hurt you, it is about letting go to heal your wounds and be free.

It’s impossible to get through life without someone doing something that hurts us – big or small – that we can sometimes struggle to forgive.  Sometimes, even though we think we have forgiven, we can bury past hurts and carry them deep down in a way that drains our energy.
Recently there has been a lot of scientific research into the power of forgiveness.The act of forgiving sets us free, so here are a few things to bear in mind.

1/ Pace yourself.  If you’re still caught up in the anger or hurt of what’s happened, it’s too soon to push yourself towards forgiving.  Work on all of the other feelings you might have and when you feel lighter, you can turn to forgiveness. Get professional help and support if you need it and give yourself all the time you need.

2/ Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning.  Just because you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that you have to send out any message that what they did was okay.  If someone has really crossed a crucial boundary or been violent or abusive, you need to put your safety first.  You can forgive someone and keep them at a safe distance from you.

3/ Realise it wasn’t personal – whatever it was, whatever they did.  Often, we get caught in someone else’s drama or projection.  When you know that, everything becomes easier to release.

4/ See the bigger picture.  I can look back at moments in my life when I’ve been hurt or betrayed by people and seen that whatever happened actually generated a crucial turning point in my life that pushed me on to a better place.  These days, I look back on many things that devastated me at the time and bless the fact that they actually happened because of where it took me and where I am now.

5/ Forgive yourself.  Often, it’s amazing how the very thing that stops us being able to forgive someone else is our inability to forgive ourselves.  We can bury guilt and project it out as anger and blame towards another person.  We deserve forgiveness just as much as we need to forgive.
When you can take the learning and leave the pain behind, you know that you have truly set yourself free.

Here is a brilliant video on the science and psychology of forgiveness

“No matter what has happened in our lives in this moment we can be at peace” – Fred Luskin PhD

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