“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Haruki Murakami
I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across this saying, and it struck a chord with me. Apparently, it seemed quite simple and obvious, but it has a lot of wisdom behind it. Life is like a roller coaster ride; it comes with its ups and downs, and to be honest, the bad days can sometimes be pretty harsh.
You make friends, you fall in love and, hence, you are always vulnerable to emotional damage. You get left, are cheated upon and hurt, but that’s how life is, unfair at times. Unless you go to some far-fetched island and live in isolation, there is no way you can escape the brutality of life.
However, you always have two choices: you can either wallow in misery or end your suffering and deal with life.
How Forgiveness Impacts Your Personal Happiness
You need to realize the fact that at any point in time, your happiness depends upon you; not on your relationships, not on your career, but you. Let me share the story of Viktor Frankl, the famous psychotherapist, and a Holocaust survivor.
Viktor, along with his family, was sent to the concentration camp, where he lost his parents, wife, and brother. Even after such atrocities, he managed to survive and make a name for himself. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he explains,
“Life has meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones.”
If Viktor was able to move past the horrific incidents life brought his way, I feel we all can.
To keep control over your life, you need to live in the moment. There is no use of dreading the past or fretting about the future. When a mishap happens, you need to move past it instead of sulking over it, and the best way to move on is to forget what happened and forgive the person who wronged you.
Before you roll your eyes, thinking why you would forgive someone who has hurt you, hear me out. I know it is a pretty difficult thing to do, and it is easier said than done, but it is the key to your happiness.
Impact of Holding on to Anger on Your Physical and Mental Health
In his famous book, Forgive and Forget, Lewis B Smedes writes,
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.”
I couldn’t agree more. You stay a prisoner of your past and your self-debilitating thoughts. Eventually, you forget that you are missing out on a lot of good things that are happening in your life keeping grudges which are harmful to you.
Forgiveness helps you heal in multiple ways, including increasing your lifespan because being angry always keeps you in a flight-or-fight mode, which has a negative effect on your heart rate and blood pressure. Furthermore, anger and self-pity throw you in the dark well of depression and anxiety.
And, do you know what causes dementia? Depression.
As Buddha described it,
“holding onto anger is like grasping hot coals with the intent of throwing at someone else; it only hurts you.”
Have you ever stopped and looked at how children manage their affairs? How they interact with their friends? If you ever get a chance to observe them, you will realize that children are much braver than adults.
They are not scared to express how they feel, and in case they end up in a fight, they usually forget it in a while and start playing with each other again. Only if it were that simple for adults as well, but alas we carry our egos with us that don’t let us forgive. Even sometimes when we want to get over something, our ego replays the incident again and again.
However, as human beings, we have the power to break this vicious cycle of negativity and look beyond it.
Often, when people get hurt, they close themselves like a burnt child who dreads fire. They deprive themselves of new experiences and meeting new people because the thought of getting hurt scares them. However, when we consciously try to understand why someone wronged us and forgave them, we get the strength to live and take risks again.
Getting hurt is inevitable, you cannot immune yourself from that since you cannot determine who enters your life, but you can take the learning and experience from your past to tackle new challenges in life.
Falling down is not important; what matters is getting up back on your feet smarter and stronger than before.
How to Become Better at Forgiving Others?
Practicing forgiveness is no doubt a difficult task and it takes quite a lot of courage to do that. However, the freedom and peace that you feel once you do that is worth all the pain. The first step to practicing forgiveness is to realize that it is not for someone else’s benefit, but for your own good. Articulating your feelings can help you a lot.
Writing a journal can have therapeutic effects. A little help from your friends can also do wonders for you. Sharing with a trustworthy friend can help you feel better.
Not only sharing but spending time with your friends doing something that you enjoy can help you heal faster.
Forgiveness is not always about others; sometimes you need to forgive yourself as well. When something wrong happens, it is easier to be hard on yourself and blame yourself for what happened. However, it becomes easier to forgive oneself when one asks forgiveness from others.
Adopting an attitude of gratitude also helps a lot. When you are grateful about the positive things in your life, you experience, positive emotions and, consequently, your physical and mental health improves.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t take much. All you need to do is find three positive things every day; they can be as simple as having good food.
Forgiving someone may be the hardest thing that you do in your life, but it is a gift that you give to yourself.