Applying forgiveness leads to benefits

Upsetting actions and words, or lack thereof, can leave us feeling a wealth of emotions such as frustration, anger, fear and/or loneliness.

Our feelings can be hurt by a loved one close to us and even by a stranger, someone we may have never met but whose behaviors, actions or words harmed us.

A wealth of research suggests applying forgiveness in our lives results in great benefits for our overall health, both psychologically and physically. Mayo Clinic staff report on their website that the benefits of forgiveness include healthier relationships, greater emotional well-being, lower stress and anxiety levels, fewer symptoms of depression, a stronger immune system, improved heart health and even higher self-esteem. Sounds worth it, right?

Forgiveness, however, is often easier said than done. A concept we might want to roll with and embrace but learn that our overwhelmingly strong emotions that coincide with being hurt, abused, mistreated, lied to, ignored or harmed — commonly get in the way. Learning what forgiveness is and isn’t can help you take control of your emotions and life.

What forgiveness is not:

Forgiveness is not minimizing the event, action or behaviors that caused pain.

Forgiveness is not forgetting.

Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing.

What forgiveness is:

Forgiveness is letting go of bitterness and hatred to lighten your emotional load.

Forgiveness is taking control of the counterproductive feelings of anger, spite and hate through not allowing the event/person to consume your every thought, choice and world.

Forgiveness is letting go of resentment and vengeance.

Forgiveness is vulnerability and personal empowerment in the same breath.

Forgiveness is freedom.

Forgiveness is possible.

To reach a state of forgiveness, consider the value you place on forgiveness. Embrace the benefits and choose to forgive. Choose to define your life by the good and not the bad. Feel each emotion and recognize the impacts of these emotions. Forgiving too quickly can leave you feeling defeated regarding your own emotional processing. Selfforgiveness is included and important.

Learn from mistakes and hurtful situations. Allow your resiliency to shine. Compassion, understanding and true empathy will be possible, as will physical and mental health benefits plentiful.

Kate Baer is the executive director for Mental Health America in Sheboygan County and member of Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 Mental Health Committee