This topic brings out many conflicting emotions; many of my patients admitted to struggling with the concept of forgiveness and letting go of grievances. Some of my patients feel they need to get even in order to feel vindicated, while others think they will be seen as wimps, especially if the grievance was done on purpose. It’s important to remember that this struggle is a normal part of the forgiveness process, and you are not alone in feeling this way. 

While our knee-jerk reaction may be that we feel vengeful and want to get even, I encourage people to take a step back and think over the situation. For instance, consider a situation where a friend unintentionally hurt your feelings. You may want to snap at them or hurl an equally offensive insult, but it is better to take the time to think things over. Once you have calmed down, you can assess how you wish to move forward, perhaps by forgiving them and maintaining the friendship. 

Given some time, you may realize your friend might have been having a bad day, there may be stress in their lives you are unaware of, or they may have made a comment they did not realize hurt. Taking time to think things over, assess the situation, and then act with a calm head allowed you to move past the situation without escalating the conflict further or harboring resentment toward your friend.

To forgive, we must reframe our negative thoughts surrounding how we felt wronged. We do this by acknowledging the hurt, understanding the other person’s perspective, and finding a way to let go of the negative emotions associated with the event. This is an empowering feeling and an essential tool in this stressful world.

Sometimes, we may choose not to forgive but to end the relationship with the offending person. Depending on the situation, this may be the better path to take. Take Penny and Samantha, for example.

Penny and Sam were friends for many years. Their friendship was not an overly close one but the girls talked at least once a week on the phone and caught up for lunch whenever their schedules allowed.

Throughout their friendship, Sam fell on hard times and asked Penny to borrow money, who happily offered her assistance. All Penny asked was that Sam repay her debt in full over a six-month period. Sam agreed to this, and Penny was happy to help her friend.

Unfortunately, Sam struggled with managing her finances and had no intentions of repaying her friend once the money was spent. Penny gently asked Sam when she was going to be repaid at first, but then, more insistently, Sam ignored her.

Eventually, Sam realized she would never see her money again and resigned herself to the loss. She grieved their friendship but chose to cut ties with her old friend. This choice allowed her to heal and move on from the hurt despite being wronged by her friend. 

Forgiveness allows us to move forward, having learned from the past but not allowing the past to influence our lives negatively. 

Research also shows that forgiving benefits us physically and mentally. For example, it reduces our stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and improves immune function. 

If you feel the need for revenge, instead of reacting, take some time to yourself. Some people like to go for a walk with the dog, while others meditate; kicking back in front of the TV or losing yourself in a good book helps distract you and allow your emotions to settle. Once you have put some mental space between yourself and the situation, you can assess the situation calmly.

As you navigate life’s many complexities, remember the benefits of forgiveness. 

To learn more about recognizing destructive patterns of blaming and avoiding responsibility, download our mini-course, “Why Couples Fight: A Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Relationship Conflict.”

In this mini-course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as ‘dropping the bone,’ mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are crucial to every relationship, they are often overlooked. Here, we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes., follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

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