Updated: Oct 20
by Sylwia Borowy (As seen in the May issue of the APeeling Digital Magazine)
In the past I couldn’t understand why in the courtroom family members could forgive murderers of their beloved ones. Now, I understand it very well. When we forgive, it doesn’t mean that we accept that what happened was right. Forgiveness is not an excuse. In fact, we acknowledge the status quo of the past. It did happen. We acknowledge that we felt hurt by actions of others, and we hold them accountable for those actions. When we forgive, it doesn’t mean that we need to be friends with them, or keep any mutual contact, but we wish them a good future.
I am not kidding. Only then can we feel we have truly forgiven.
When we forgive, we free ourselves, our minds, from any hostility, grudges and resentments. You see, when we feel anger, frustration, resentment, hate toward others, and when we blame them - they may not even know it.
When we continue to keep the negative emotions and thoughts of revenge, we hurt ourselves, not them. And with the time, we may also develop stress, anxiety and depression. I’m pretty sure most of you already know that we are able to choose our emotions.
Emotions don’t control us, we control them. It is in our hands what we want to feel, and we want to feel good, right?
When we don’t allow others to push our emotional bottoms, we express our emotional maturity, we feel more empowered and energized, instead of being dragged down. By forgiving we are gaining control of our lives.
I was married for almost 18 years when my husband called me, yes, he called me, not even facetime, and he asked me for a divorce.
My world turned upside down. I received the memorable phone call when I was still living in Latin America, and he was already back in Europe. For him, love of my life, I left my country, my family, and my career in a bank. At that time I was promoted to Lending Risk Manager, but I never started this position. I emigrated. When our twins were born two years later, I started working even less. When they were eight years old, I stopped working. We left for Latin America to pursue his career. Eight years later we were back in Europe, in his country.
I needed to start all over again, really everything, while at the same time being in the divorce process. I was feeling shame and guilt, and failure. I felt betrayed and feared for my future. I was hopeless and helpless. I had lots of anger and sadness in me. Sadness? No, I was depressed. Every day, when I woke up in the morning, I wanted the night to come back again very quickly. I wanted to sleep non stop. I didn’t see any purpose in life. In fact, I didn’t want to live, but then after thinking for a long time, I decided to live!
I didn’t want to hurt my family, leave my children with trauma, and a legacy of suicide in the family. I did my first coaching training, during which, I discovered my new purpose in life: helping others become stronger and happier. I became a survivor, not a victim. There was however something else I needed to do. I held lots of resentment toward my ex. I needed to get rid of all the negative emotions. I needed to forgive him.
And I did it!
I do believe that forgiving may be extremely hard for some people, especially forgiving those who did not admit doing any wrong, or if we still love them. I know it is hard. Let’s however remember that doing hard things makes us stronger.
Forgiving doesn’t mean that we forget what happened in the past. This is not what forgiving is about.
When we forgive, our negative emotions are gradually being replaced by neutral, and hopefully with the time, by positive emotions. We start feeling not only inner love, but also inner peace and hope. We start feeling happy again. As a result, our mental health improves. Oh yes, forgiveness is a medicine against suffering.
Keeping the negative emotions inside influences our state of being - we are stuck in negativity. And as long as we are there, we cannot move forward, because our focus is on the problem. When we forgive, our focus shifts. Instead of thinking about the past, the hurtful situation, we pay more attention to the future, and steps we want to take. We start thinking how we can use this experience to improve our lives, and the lives of other people.
In fact, many of us can be grateful for those tough experiences. I am. They often give us more wisdom and strength. Some of us can even discover a new purpose in life. With some training, we can become experts in the fields of consultants, therapists or coaches, like me. We can write articles or books for others, either how to avoid certain situations, or how to handle those tough moments in life. I have written two books about relationships, “How to Get Over a Breakup & be Happy Again in 5 Simple Steps in 3 Months” and “Is Your Relationship on the Rocks? Find out the Red Flags Here.” I publish articles on LinkedIn how to live with more joy and positivity on a daily basis. We can set up a foundation, give public speakings, organize workshops, and more.
And as I said in my post on LinkedIn on Valentine’s Day, the act of forgiveness in a romantic relationship is a crucial ingredient to have a healthy and sustainable relationship.
And it is not only about forgiving others; it is, first of all, forgiving ourselves. So often we blame ourselves that we didn’t do enough to avoid unwanted situations, that we made mistakes. I blamed myself and I needed to forgive myself. I did it. Let’s take responsibility in our hands and admit if we indeed made mistakes. Let’s reflect on the lessons we learned. By not forgiving ourselves may lead to feeling of guilt, self-blame, self-pity, regret, and even self hatred. This way we punish ourselves. Let me say it again, when we forgive ourselves, we feel more inner love. Forgiveness is an act of kindness toward ourselves.
To conclude, people who forgive become less angry. They develop feelings of compassion for those who hurt, empathy, and understanding. They feel less hurt, and become more optimistic. They become more resistant to negative experiences - they develop a stronger immune system. Their self-esteem improves and they gain more positive energy.
They are more agreeable and confident. They handle challenging situations much easier.
Forgiveness is a choice, strength, and intelligence. When we forgive, our wounds finally start the healing process. And it is very important to understand that forgiveness comes from deep in our hearts. It needs to be sincere. Otherwise, it won’t work.
If you are reading already here, I do believe that by now you understand the benefits of forgiveness. If you know somebody who cannot forgive, please encourage them to read this article, share it with them, so they can find the strength to forgive, and I can assure them that they will feel better soon.
Sylwia Borowy works with clients who want to improve their relationships, either with their partner, children, their boss, or with themselves.