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How to Forgive and Let Go of Anger and Grief

Health and personal growth are important issues to Ms. Giordano, a writer and public speaker. She seeks to inspire and inform.

Forgiveness blesses twice.

A dew drop on a leaf  illustrates Shakespeare's quote about mercy (and forgiveness).

A dew drop on a leaf illustrates Shakespeare's quote about mercy (and forgiveness).

Forgiveness is twice blessed.

Shakespeare wrote about mercy in his play The Merchant of Venice, but his words are equally true for forgiveness. After all, mercy is a form of forgiveness.

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath

It is twice blessed

it blesseth him that gives

And him that takes.

Forgiveness blesses twice. Forgiveness is just as beneficial to the one forgiving as to the one receiving the forgiveness. It is very important for the person who was wronged to let go of the anger and grief that they are feeling.

Give up the hope of a different past.

An inspirational poster about forgiveness.

An inspirational poster about forgiveness.

You must let go of the past.

A mental health counselor once told me, “Forgiveness means giving up the hope of having a different past.”

After I thought about it, I realized that it means accepting the past and then letting go of the past. Why do we play a hurt over and over in our heads? it’s because we are thinking that we can magically make it different or make it like it hadn’t happened.

“Giving up all hope of a different past” means letting go of anger, letting go of bitterness, letting go of all the negative emotions that you are feeling about this offence. It means giving up the grief you feel when someone you loved and trusted hurts you. It means understanding that life is not just, life is not fair, bad things happen to good people, and that good people sometimes do bad things.

It’s nice when the other person can apologize and you can tell him he is forgiven. However, forgiveness is not always about the other person. Forgiveness is important for your own health.

It doesn’t matter if you ever tell the other person that you have forgiven him. It doesn’t matter if he wants or accepts your forgiveness. You can even forgive someone who is dead. Remember, you are doing this for you.

It is easier to forgive when you get an apology. But you can forgive even when the other person has not apologized. You can practice preemptive forgiveness. Do it for your own well-being.

Experience the freedom of forgiveness.

A hot air balloon symbolizes letting go of anger and grief.

A hot air balloon symbolizes letting go of anger and grief.

There are many benefits to forgiveness.

Brent Bauer from the Mayo Clinic has said “It’s amazing how many studies are bearing out the benefits of forgiveness.” Every time you replay a hurt in your mind, it is like it is happening to you again. It keeps you stuck in the limbic brain, the so-called 'lizard brain.' Forgiveness moves you to the prefrontal cortex where the higher mental functions take place.”

Fred Luskin is co-founder of the Sanford Forgiveness Project. He reports that study after study shows that forgiving can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce levels of depression and anxiety.

People who forgive have better relationships with others, feel happier and more hopeful, and score better on just about every measure of psychological well-being.

In experiments, scientists have found that just thinking about forgiveness caused beneficial mental and physical changes.

So if you are still angry with your college room-mate, the boss you worked for long ago, your parents, your ex, even the person who cut you off on the road today, you need to work on forgiveness.

Everyone can cearn to forgive.

Everyone can learn to forgive.

Everyone can learn to forgive.

Everyone can learn how to forgive.

That’s all well and good, you may be thinking, but I feel like I just can’t forgive. Some things are too terrible to forgive. Not so, it is just a matter of learning how to forgive. Luskin believes that forgiveness is a trainable skill that everyone can learn.

There are only two steps in the process:

Step #1 is grieving--feel your pain, your anger.

Step #2 is focusing on understanding and compassion.

It may be simple, but it may not be easy. You may have to put a lot of time and effort into it. .

There are meditation exercises that you can do to help with this like the one at the end of this article. However, if you have a serious issue, you may want to work with a professional.

Sometimes just imagining that you are forgiving can work wonders. Part of a forgiveness meditation is imagining that you are forgiving the person who hurt you. You can play it out in your mind in detail. Have an imaginary conversation with the other person.

Forgiveness does not mean that you condone whatever the person did. Forgiveness does not mean that there are no consequences. For instance, you may forgive your spouse for cheating, but still divorce him. Forgiveness just means that you are at peace with it, you have let it slip out of your present, you have removed the negative emotion from the event.

Do we have to "forgive and forget?"

Question: Can we forgive and forget?

Question: Can we forgive and forget?

Forgiveness does not mean that you condone the other person's actions.

Forgiveness is not about pretending that you don’t feel angry or hurt. It is about responding to those feelings in a different way--with love and with kindness, rather than with rage.

You can’t control what others do, you can’t control how you feel about it, but you can control how you react to it.

We have all heard the statement “Forgive and forget.” Now that is just silly, if you take it literally. After all, we can’t will ourselves to have selective amnesia. You have been hurt and the pain and the memory will always be there. We can’t forget, but we can act as if we have forgotten.

Use tihs metaphor to help you understand the concept. It like a big pot of boiling water. You can turn up the flame and let it boil ferociously. That pot is going to demand a lot of your attention. Or you can turn off the flame, and set the pot on the back porch to cool down. You haven't forgotten it; you know it is there, but you don't have to pay a lot of attention to it. Eventually, you can empty the pot onto the flower garden, bring the pot back into the house, and use it to cook dinner.

First forgive yourself.

It is important to forgive yourself.

It is important to forgive yourself.

Begin by forgiving yourself.

While I'm talking about compassion, how about we show a little compassion for ourselves? Sometimes we hold on to the anger we have for someone else because we are angry at ourselves. We may be feeling that we are somehow responsible.

For instance, maybe you are angry at an ex who cheated on you--is there a little small voice deep inside you saying, I wasn’t there for him (or her), I was distant and nagging.” Or maybe “I was such a fool not to have seen the signs."

Once you are able to forgive yourself, forgiving others will be much easier. So begin by forgiving yourself.

Forgiveness is twice blessed

An inspirational poster about forgiveness with a line from my poem.

An inspirational poster about forgiveness with a line from my poem.

Forgiveness is Twice Blessed--A Poem

I wrote a short poem about forgiveness.

When I’m thinking about forgiveness,

My thoughts turn to the Bard of Avon.

He proclaims that mercy is twice-blessed,

Blessing him who gives and him who takes.

When I freely offer forgiveness,

I’m not condoning, not forgetting.

I forgive for my own happiness,

To free my heart from anger and rage.

There’s a miracle to forgiveness,

When it’s born from love and compassion.

It relieves body and mind of stress,

And fills my heart with tranquility.

Try doing a forgiveness guided meditation.

There are many forgiveness meditations on the internet and on YouTube. Try the one featured below. It covers a lot of the issues discussed in this article.

Forgiveness will not be instantaneous. You may have to repeat the meditation many times before you finally feel the lightness that indicates that you have forgiven.

You might also want to consider counseling. You may need more than self-help techniques.

Forgiveness Meditation

© 2014 Catherine Giordano

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