"Beth has been my best friend for ten years, ever since we were in kindergarten," recalls Lindsay. "I told her a secret, something I promised my brother I wouldn't share with anyone. He didn't talk to me for a month when he found out all the kids in the middle school knew he was taking medication because he wet his bed. Beth told her sister who told everyone else. That taught me a lesson. I will never feel the same way about Beth again. Never."
"My father left us when I was seven," remembers 16-year-old Allison. "He left my mother, my younger sister, and I for another woman. We haven't seen him in years. There was a message on my answering machine from him last year. He left his telephone number for me to get back to him. I hope he holds his breath waiting."
"I have been angry with my grandmother for as long as I can remember," says Rebecca, a 15-year-old sophomore. "She constantly criticizes everything about me...from how I dress and what my hair looks like to where my friends' parents went on vacation and what electives I take in school. I spent years in fear of doing something to displease her until I realized everything I did would. No matter how hard I try to live by her rules, it's never good enough."
The church gives sermons on it. Your mother is big on lecturing about it. Never hold a grudge. Learn how to forgive someone. What is this emotion that's so hard to muster up? Forgiveness is defined as recognizing you have been wronged, giving up all your feelings of resentment, and eventually treating the nasty offender with compassion and maybe even love. What comes more naturally is to use all that pain and anger to fuel revenge. While according to a Gallop poll, 94% of Americans believe it is important to know how to forgive someone, less than half of us actually make forgiveness a frequent practice.
Why bother to learn how to forgive someone who makes you miserable?
It's not for their sake that we suggest you try to let go of your anger. There is evidence to show that negative emotions have an effect on how our bodies work. And one thing we know for sure is that high-school students do not need another stressor. Recent studies have shown that those people who know how to forgive someone tend to feel better about themselves. Those who harbor feelings of betrayal let their anger fester. The price is steep, causing the wronged party to:
- Have a sense of moral superiority. They think that if they cut off someone's legs, it makes them taller.
- Have higher blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
- Allow those who wronged them to rent too much space in their minds, leading to long-term emotional and psychological damage.
What Forgiveness is NOT
Many of us associate forgiveness with weakness. In reality, it is a sign of strength. Letting go of hatred is a lot harder, and demands a lot more courage, than holding onto a grudge. Forgiveness is NOT excusing, forgetting or denying. It does NOT always lead to reconciliation. It does NOT mean putting yourself back in an abusive relationship. Some mean-spirited people will never change, and you're better off steering clear of them. But even if you decide not to kiss and make up, you can forgive them and get rid of all that nasty bitterness and anxiety.
How to forgive someone?
- Face the pain. Experience the negative feelings rather than deny or avoid them.
- Put yourself in the wrongdoer's shoes to try to understand what made them act the way they did.
- Choose to forgive. Gather all your strength to let go of the hurt and hostility you feel so you can move on.
- Think of the people you know who forgive easily. Are they likely to have more warm, satisfying relationships and good communication skills than those who hang on to their anger?
Remember knowing how to forgive someone is for your benefit. By putting bad experiences behind you, you rid yourself of the anger that disrupts too much of the way you think, feel and behave. By substituting more positive feelings and attitudes with knowing how to forgive someone, you improve your physical health, raise your self-esteem and become a more attractive person to those around you.