Becoming a healthy person is not just about our bodies, it’s about our souls as well. Health is inside and outside—body, mind and soul. I can be completely transparent and say that forgiveness has always been my biggest struggle. I have a very difficult time forgiving someone who has hurt me or disappointed me. This seems to be even worse when it is someone who I had an expectation of. Someone who I thought was trustworthy or someone who had my back. When talking with clients, some of the most difficult issues regarding forgiveness stem from family members, and this is particularly grueling.
Why is it so difficult to forgive someone? I believe it’s because we want them to feel the pain we feel. We want them to suffer as we have suffered. So, we continue to carry a grudge by bad-mouthing them, discrediting them and hurting them in every way possible. The problem with this approach is, it simply doesn’t work. No matter how long we hold a grudge, the other person is not affected by our anger, resentment, loss of sleep, anxiety, bitterness, sadness… but we are! The effect on us is traumatic–physically and emotionally.
It is like we are carrying a cement block on our backs for every person we hate or are angry at. Let’s call it baggage because that is what it is. We pack our anger, resentment and bitterness into a block, and we put a name on it. Yes, I have a few of these too. And I struggle every day not to pick up these cement blocks of baggage the minute I wake up in the morning. I have to make a conscious choice that I will NOT pick up this baggage and carry it around all day. If I do, it will continue to hurt me, not the other person. And that hurt can be catastrophic.
Not forgiving someone by carrying the baggage around can absolutely affect our health. Maybe not immediately, but our health deteriorates as long as we carry the crap along. A report published in 2014 stated that 70 million Americans are taking some type of mind-altering drug. Anxiety, stress, anger, depression, lack of sleep and overall physical health issues come with the baggage. Yep, that’s what we get by not forgiving someone. And what are they getting? Not our health problems or myriad of issues that come from the inability to forgive.
So, how do we start? Identify who is on your unforgiveness list. Who are you angry at, who do you hold a grudge against for whatever reason? Is this a list of just a few people, or is it a list of more than 10 people? Once you’ve made your list, create an action plan. What will help you to move forward? Possibly a phone call? Not to argue, but to ask how they are, and say, “I know we’ve had some negative things between us, but I would like to move past that.” You might be surprised by their reaction. If a call is too much, how about a text or a simply written card? Make the first move. By chance, you may run into one of them somewhere. If you do, stretch out your hand and genuinely ask how he or she is doing. Often, the conversation starts naturally. Maybe you don’t need to apologize, but just speak to them in order to let the resentment go. I am a firm believer in prayer. If you can’t do anything, JUST PRAY! Pray for that person. It is very difficult to do, but somehow I believe God heals us through the act of praying for our enemies and ones who have wronged us.
Let it go. Pray, cry, talk to someone, but let it go. Forgive. You will feel better and will live longer. I have clients who have forgiven and they all have a similar result—feeling like a weight has lifted and, most importantly, they feel better. They sleep better. Holding on to resentment and anger is a distraction. It takes up precious energy that you could be using for something more productive. Here’s a bright spot too—once you forgive, it gets easier, and you are less likely to hold on to grudges. You can do it. You can forgive. Remember, we are all works in progress moving toward our best lives one step at a time.
Melissa Versich lives in Hibbing, MN. She is a certified personal and professional life coach, and holds a masters degree in communication. For information on life, health or career coaching, email email@example.com.