Forgiving someone is an experience that most people see as courageous. It is the conscious and deliberate decision to alleviate resentment, grudges, and vengeance against something or someone that has harmed you. Whether or not the person you are forgiving actually deserves your forgiveness, the act itself can be a remarkable and significant part of one’s healing journey.
Forgiveness and Recovery
Recovery from mental illness or substance use poses many challenges, especially when it comes to acknowledging feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. Throughout your healing journey, you may face these negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the self and others and use them as motivation to become a better version of yourself.
Why is it harmful to avoid confrontation or to avoid forgiving someone that has done us wrong? Why even bother with forgiveness? There are numerous benefits that come alongside forgiveness, but to understand the benefits, we must also understand what forgiveness means.
What Exactly is Forgiveness?
An inevitable part of the lived human experience is the fact that we all make mistakes. We are always learning and always growing. While some people learn to avoid making certain mistakes or hurting others by witnessing and learning, other people only learn the consequences of their actions by actually making the mistake themselves.
Forgiveness is the ability to acknowledge that we all make mistakes. It is a voluntary process of letting go of distressing emotions that you hold towards someone else that has wronged you. It may help to understand what forgiveness truly is by identifying what forgiveness is not.
- Forgiveness is not pardoning, condoning, or excusing an offense of harm.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting about an offense of harm.
- Forgiveness is not tolerating an offense.
- Forgiveness does not mean that you need to trust a person again.
- Forgiveness does not mean resuming a relationship or engaging in reconnection.
It is essential to understand that forgiveness is complex and takes time. If you are struggling with being able to forgive someone right now, you might understand that forgiveness is not something that typically happens overnight. With that being said, forgiveness is crucial during the healing journey.
The Benefits of Forgiveness
Forgiveness means that you are choosing to let go of the anger and hurt inside of you. When you forgive, you are essentially ridding the power that a specific person, or harm, has over you. Several reported health benefits of forgiveness include:
- Improved mental health
- Improved quality of life
- Improved self-esteem
- Reduced stress
- Reduced negative emotions
- Better sleep quality and eating habits
Aside from the generic benefits of forgiveness, there are many specific benefits to forgiveness that make it an essential act in one’s healing process.
- Forgiveness brings you peace. It helps to heal deep wounds. When we forgive someone, it may feel like we are doing it for their benefit, although that is not necessarily true. You are normalizing the fact that people make mistakes, which can help their own self-esteem. One of the most important benefits of forgiveness is that it brings peace to your heart, ridding unhelpful feelings of distress.
- Forgiveness allows you to reclaim power. Many events of trauma cause patterns of self-destruction. When someone has wronged you, you may feel like there is nothing you can do about it. This puts you in an unhealthy victimhood mentality. When you choose forgiveness, you take back control of your life and give yourself permission to move on.
- Forgiveness can help improve connections with others. Resentment and anger towards someone else do not only affect the relationship that you have with that person. Feelings of hostility can and will flow into your other relationships, such as having a short temper or struggling with trust. Forgiveness and compassion improve the relationships you have will all people.
- Forgiveness can help you reconcile if you choose to do so. While some relationships may not be worth repairing, some definitely are. In many cases, forgiveness can help someone realize the pain that they have caused you. As you forgive others, they will learn the importance of forgiveness themself.
Forgiveness in Recovery
Forgiveness is central to obtaining recovery and sustaining recovery from mental health distress and addiction. In recovery, many people may find that they need the courage to forgive themselves- not necessarily someone else. Addressing and relieving feelings of resentment, shame, and guilt towards oneself is a detrimental step in recovery.
If you are in your beginning stages of recovery, this challenge may seem impossible, but this is not true. Let go of any attachment to expectations about how others should or do behave. Accept yourself, and others, for who they truly are. The more you can focus on the positives, the more you will be able to intentionally commit to your lifelong recovery journey.
Forgiveness is an essential component to anyone’s healing journey. Many people experience multiple instances of needing to forgive someone else, as well as instances of needing to forgive yourself. Forgiveness means understanding that mistakes can and do happen, and whether or not people grow from those mistakes, you will not tolerate being harmed by others through their mistakes. You deserve to acknowledge your self-worth while ridding yourself of the obstacles that keep you from healing. West Coast Recovery Centers believes that forgiveness is a detrimental part of the healing and recovery journey. We have many treatment options, including holistic and traditional therapies, that are available during your stay at our facility. We understand that forgiveness is an act that is detrimental to sustaining long-lasting healing. Let us help you learn how to forgive yourself. For more information about the resources we offer, give us a call today at (760) 492-6509.