While many people like to say “forgive and forget” as a philosophy of life, it can sometimes be more difficult than meets the eye to actually put into action on a regular basis. Forgiveness can be a painful and difficult process in itself. While it isn’t always the easiest thing to do, forgiving and moving on is the best advice you can follow in most situations for your own mental health and the health of the relationships in your life.
While forgiving and forgetting doesn’t mean that you literally forget — you can’t erase your memories, obviously — it can mean that you feel the freedom to move on from situations that have caused you pain. In fact, learning from past situations is a part of the process of forgiveness.
Forgiving and forgetting is the best advice for your own mental health and wellness for so many reasons. Here are just a few of them.
One of the main reasons why forgiveness is the best path is because harboring anger hurts you much more than it hurts the other person. Holding onto anger isn’t good for your mental health, and it can even cause physical health complications over time.
Even if you compartmentalize, your anger will still be there, blocking you from the mental and emotional progress you deserve. While forgiveness isn’t always easy, it frees you from anger and can help you feel happier.
Letting Go of Resentment
Much like anger, resentment can fester in your relationships, even if you don’t express it or let people know you’re experiencing it. Often, this happens with existing relationships where the apology wasn’t genuine or the behavior continues to impact others.
However, even in those situations, it can still be helpful to forgive — not for their sake, but for your own. When you let go of resentment, you can feel better in your own situation and move on emotionally. Resentment is allowing others to affect your feelings, and forgiveness can be your way out of that trap.
For many, forgiving others can be a method for healthy boundary-setting. When it comes to the “forget” part of “forgive and forget,” that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself with the respect you deserve going forward and prevent the same patterns from persisting. Instead, you can use healthy boundaries to conserve your emotional energy and protect yourself in the future of the relationships you continue to hold onto.
Forgiveness makes the situation about you and your needs again rather than focusing on the other person. Setting boundaries proves that it isn’t about your feelings for them, but rather about specific words, actions and behaviors that you won’t allow in your life for your own protection. That’s pretty powerful.
One of the biggest ways in which forgiveness can serve you is by allowing you to take control of your life situations. Much like the ability to set boundaries, forgiveness sets the decision and the situation in your hands. You are the one who gets to decide how you feel, and you can choose to let go.
By doing this, you’re taking control of your own feelings and emotions, which can make you feel freer and happier.
Being the Bigger Person
Another great reason to practice forgiveness in your life is the ability to be the bigger person — not just for others, but for your own emotional health. By being the bigger person and being gracious and forgiving with others, you of course are showing them kindness. But you can also feel good and aligned with your choices from a moral standpoint.
Sometimes, this can feel quite difficult, but choosing to forgive others can help you feel better about your choices and more self-assured.
Improving Your Relationships
Yet another reason to consider forgiveness as a personal philosophy is that it can improve your relationships with others in your life. While the state of any relationship is a two-way street and you can’t control how others treat you, you can use forgiveness to give people an opportunity to do better as well as set boundaries around how you expect to be treated.
Forgiving others is also a great way to set a good example for those around you to mirror your behavior and adopt forgiveness in their own lives. This can create a much more positive environment for both your life and those around you.
Forgiving for You
While it may sound a bit cliched, some cliches are true — when you forgive, you can do it for yourself, and not just for the person you’re forgiving. When you forgive for yourself and your own mental health, you can let go of those negative emotions and start to find a bit more freedom and happiness in life.
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, freelance writer, and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She enjoys yoga day, red wine, and drinking all of the tea she can find. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
Image courtesy of Thiều Hoàng Phước.