It can be very beneficial to devote one week of a personal development program to forgiveness healing and apologies. This can lead to finding inner peace through learning to forgive – an effective form of anger self-help.
For readers following the Sample Personal Growth Plan, this material applies to week eighteen, which focuses on apologies and forgiveness.
Everyone has suffered some form of hurtful behavior at the hands of others. It’s safe to also say that everyone has caused wrong or hurtful behavior to others.
The intricacy of relationships probably guarantees that there will be hurt feelings and damaged self-esteem at times, whether intentional or accidental.
What is Forgiveness?
In a Psychology Today Online article, Gordon Livingston indicates that forgiveness “is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.” Livingston goes on to say that forgiveness is neither forgetting nor reconciliation. Mayo Clinic Staff Chaplin Katherine M. Piderman, Ph.D., defines forgiveness as “a decision to let go of resentments and thoughts of revenge.”
Forgiveness does not require an apology from the offending party. Though it might be easier to forgive after receiving a sincere apology, an act of forgiveness is a personal decision which can be made without action by the perceived offender.
Forgiveness Healing – Self-Help for Anger
Forgiveness is a self help form of healing. Deciding to forgive oneself and others for past transgressions is a path to inner peace and an effective anger self-help process.
Psychology Today Online notes that, “Mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us, instead of allowing anger toward them to eat away at us, is the course of action recommended by most psychologists.” Though forgiving another person for hurtful behavior might benefit a regretful offending person, it is primarily of benefit to the victim.
Benefits of Forgiveness and Apologies
Mayo Clinic online summarizes the benefits of forgiveness this way: “When you don’t practice forgiveness, you may be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.”
Mayo Clinic’s Piderman notes that research links holding on to grudges and bitterness — residual emotions of those unwilling to forgive — to long-term health problems. The benefits of forgiveness include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Stress reduction
- Less hostility
- Better anger management skills
- Lower heart rate
- Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse
- Fewer depression symptoms
- Fewer anxiety symptoms
- Reduction in chronic pain
- More friendships
- Healthier relationships
- Greater religious or spiritual well-being
- Improved psychological well-being
How to Forgive and Find Inner Peace
Writing on Psychology Today Online in “Four Elements of Forgiveness,” Ryan Howes, defines four elements characterizing successful acts of forgiveness:
- Express the emotion – Allow yourself to express the full emotion you felt when the act of transgression occurred. Express it openly to the transgressor if possible.
- Understand why – The mind needs to find a reason for the transgression — some explanation — even if it is only that the transgression was a random event that could have happened to anyone.
- Rebuild safety – The forgiver must feel safe from future occurrences of the transgression. A sincere apology from the offending party accomplishes this, as does building a boundary or means of defense against similar acts.
- Let go – Letting go is a decision a forgiver makes to release a grudge, resentment, and need for revenge. Letting go is not pretending the event didn’t occur, but it is deciding that it no longer will affect future thoughts or behaviors. Howes suggests that if letting go is not possible, you have insufficiently processed the previous three elements.
How to Apologize
If you are an offender, troubled by regret or guilt over your past transgressions, your sincere apology should bring you the benefit of inner peace as well as accompanying health benefits.
The sincerity of an apology is more important than the actual words used, though it is important that acceptance of personal responsibility comes through.
Saying, “I’m sorry you were hurt when I did such-and-such” shifts the responsibility away from you and will not be accepted as a sincere apology. Avoid attempts to justify your behavior, which also diminishes your acceptance of responsibility.
Simply say, “I’m sorry I hurt you when I [name the offending act] and I promise it won’t happen again.” It’s more likely that this type of apology will be viewed as sincere.
Forgiveness Healing Belongs in a Personal Development Plan
Forgiving yourself and others for past transgressions, as well as apologizing for your role in hurting others belongs in your personal growth program.
Find inner peace and potential health benefits while improving your relationships and achieving personal growth.