It’s not always easy to get over emotional pain. But letting go of hurt and anger could be more beneficial to us than we thought
What could you forgive — theft? Betrayal? A partner being unfaithful?
Or are some things too painful to ever let go?
When it comes to forgiveness, it is easier for some of us than others.
But did you know that learning to forgive is beneficial for our wellbeing?
Over the years, studies have uncovered the many health benefits of forgiveness from lowering the risk of heart attacks, to improving cholesterol and sleep, reducing pain and blood pressure, anxiety and stress.
In fact, anger and hostility are linked to a greater risk of heart disease.
But can anyone learn to forgive and should there be limits to what we can let go?
Relate counsellor Denise Knowles says that those who forgive get on with their lives quicker because they’re ‘not looking backwards’.
She says: ‘When something bad happens, we need to recognise that it happened — but to keep coming back to it leaves a person stuck in the past.
‘When we forgive someone it doesn’t mean we absolve them of what they’ve done. It also doesn’t mean you have to forget.’
The important thing about forgiveness is that it allows you to move on.
For example, when a husband or a wife has been unfaithful but they want to save their marriage, forgiveness is key.
‘It is not saying to the other person they can go and do it again,’ Denise says. ‘But it can help to live in the moment again and not look backwards.’
However, Denise concedes that there are things which are unforgiveable.
She says: ‘There are some terrible things which we cannot forgive. But it helps to have an insight into what went on.
‘For people who suffered at the hands of their parents during childhood, it might be useful for them not to forgive what happened but to try to understand the context, and then tell themselves they do not have to repeat those patterns.’
So what if you want to forgive, but just can’t find it in yourself? What if your bitterness is making you feel ill and stressed?
Denise says: ‘Forgiveness has to come from the person. If there is resistance, my job as a therapist is to understand so that a person can work through those issues to reach forgiveness, if they want to.
‘Forgiveness is positive — even if you walk away from the person who has hurt or betrayed you. But what is important is that you need to be able to forgive yourself too for any lingering bad feelings.’
Edited by Julie Cook
I forgave my mother for giving me away
When I was six, I became aware I didn’t look like my family.
My mother explained to me I came from another lady’s tummy, but that she loved me as her own.
I’d been adopted.
My birth mother had only been a teenager, a single mum. She couldn’t cope.
Hurt and anger welled up inside me.
Why had she given me up? Had she not loved me?
At 18 I managed to trace her. She’d had another baby just 16 months after giving me up. That hurt even more, as I wondered why she kept that baby and not me.
Now it’s almost 30 years since I traced my birth mother.
For ages we didn’t speak. But finally I have forgiven her. She was young and immature.
Letting go of the pain has helped me move on.
From Katie Blake, 45, of Falmouth, Cornwall
He had an affair — now I trust him
When I first got together with Tom I’d just come out of a long marriage. A few months in I had a wobble and said I needed time to think.
But Tom misunderstood and thought I’d gone back to my ex.
A few weeks later, Tom and I moved in together. But I found emails on his computer, which showed he’d been having an affair.
He begged my forgiveness, saying he had misunderstood the situation.
It wasn’t easy but I decided to forgive him.
I’m so glad I did. Tom has never cheated again and I trust him completely.
From Maria Jones, 44, of Reading, Berks