Whether it is someone who has become addicted to alcohol or a substance, a lack of trust in a relationship arising from a catastrophic event, or even a crisis of wellbeing, the concept of forgiveness can seem further from reality in the modern world. In many ways, the concept of forgiveness can be incredibly profound and is best left to the teachings of Jesus or is not necessarily considered modern behaviour, but forgiveness holds immense importance in today’s increasingly unforgiving world. 

It seems that more often than ever, we see people looking out for themselves and becoming mean, and therefore it’s easy to see why forgiveness shouldn’t be part of our vocabulary. From lying politicians to queue cutters in the supermarket, it can be easy to become the worst versions of ourselves as a way to get by, which is why something like forgiveness is so important that we all need to practise. Here’s a few reasons why.

It Promotes Healing and Peace Within Yourself

So many of us can find that if we’ve been wronged in a certain way, we hold on to grudges easily. In actual fact, it’s incredibly easy to hold on to grudges when you’ve been wronged so many times, and therefore it’s so important to let things go, especially anger and bitterness. Instead, we should be thinking about what we can do to help them because although you may think that giving someone support in a way that enables them to help themselves and not others can feel like wasted energy, it can also be a fantastic lesson. 

We’ve already mentioned addiction, and when someone we love is bound by addiction and it completely alters their personality, we can feel hurt by their behaviour. Of course, this is where professionals like AddictionsUK can provide far more insightful comments on how we can support someone through addiction, especially because they are not being true to themselves. Addiction is a disease, and it’s never the person’s choice to do this. This is something we need to remember, and when we let go of the emotional burden of past hurts, it liberates us, and this means that we find inner peace within ourselves. Lots of people think that holding on to anger is incredibly important and motivating. While someone once pointed out that anger is an energy, it can be incredibly motivating, but only in the short term.

It Strengthens Relationships

Unforgiveness is a massive strain, and it can destroy relationships in communities, in professional settings, and of course, in our personal lives. Forgiveness is a hard thing to muster up within us because it requires being vulnerable. On the other hand, it’s an excellent way to mend broken bonds, and rebuild trust, but more importantly, create understanding and empathy. 

So many people talk about stubbornness in relationships and refer to it almost with a semblance of humour, that it’s a “quirky” character trait. The problem with being stubborn is that this is what drives wedges between people. Two people who are unwilling to find common ground on anything will invariably grow apart and are absolutely refusing to understand the other person. 

When we allow vulnerability into our lives, it can allow relationships to thrive despite what has happened in the past. Relationships should be built on trust, and when we rebuild trust by learning to forgive, we end up feeling a greater sense of contentment in ourselves because of this learning to let things go. It’s not something that happens overnight; it requires a lot of practice. From things like relationship counselling to CBT, there’s so many things that people can do to learn how to forgive, and some people find that they cannot forgive because they believe deep down the other person is not willing to change. And that is absolutely fine because we can never change someone, but rather, we have to be there and willing to go through the tough stuff in the hope that they will change.

However, one of the big reasons relationships falter is because of a question of time. How long are people willing to wait for someone to catch up, emotionally speaking? It doesn’t always happen. On the other hand, being forgiving can also be misconstrued as moral high ground or pious, particularly from the perspective of a person who’s either in the wrong or someone who’s unwilling to change. We should always remember that forgiveness is key to relationship building, but only if both sides of the equation are willing to make the effort.

Spiritual Growth

Of course, we talk about forgiveness often in the context of spiritual growth. Religion is a very personal topic, and there are many faiths, including Christianity, that talk about forgiveness as a fundamental teaching and as a way to deepen one’s spiritual connection. 

While many people view religion as a get-out clause, as something that is about surrendering responsibility to a higher power, the fact is that forgiveness is something that the person has to genuinely believe in. Yes, in the context of religion, forgiveness means that we can align ourselves with more divine principles, but it helps to experience personal growth. Forgiveness is one of those things that requires letting go of certain predetermined concepts, especially when people have wronged us. But if we believe that people have wronged us, this means that we hold grudges or we think about exacting revenge in one way or another. 

This is a very hard thing to come to terms with within the modern world, especially when we can be verbally attacked on social media for our beliefs, whether it’s religious or not. Learning to forgive can be interpreted as a selfish act; however, we need to find some way to self-preservation, whether it’s through religious beliefs or not.

It Improves Our Mental and Physical Health

There have been many studies that have linked forgiveness to improved mental and physical well-being. Forgiveness can do a lot for us, including reducing stress and lowering anxiety and depression. It can even reduce our blood pressure and improve our heart health. Harbouring resentment and unforgiveness can have detrimental effects on our health and quality of life. It’s this stress that studies are now talking about as being a contributing factor to some of the most devastating diseases. 

There have been so many studies on the benefits of forgiveness, including the REACH Forgiveness study, which is the largest randomised control trial on forgiveness interventions to date, and with over 4,500 participants across multiple countries found that a self-guided forgiveness workbook increased the ability and willingness to forgive but also improved overall well-being. Logically, unforgiveness is associated with tension and physiological arousal, and while not everything may be forgivable, research has shown that people can develop greater self-forgiveness through interventions. 

We have to remember that the concept of forgiveness is not necessarily about forgiving others, but it can be an excellent tool to help ourselves, especially in light of negative mindsets. Forgiveness is associated with increased hope, which can promote better psychological health outcomes and decreased anger. There have been many studies that highlight the mental and physical benefits of forgiveness, showing it as an important area to focus on in terms of health.

The Importance of Forgiving Oneself

Individuals can carry immense guilt, shame, and self-loathing for the harm that they’ve caused to others and to themselves, particularly in the realm of addiction. We need to learn the art of forgiveness because it is a metaphorical line in the sand. The art of recovering from something, whether it’s severe hatred towards oneself, depression, anxiety, addiction, or other destructive behaviours is critical to long-term recovery. 

We can hold onto things for much longer than is necessary, and in the psyche of the self, when we think of ourselves in a certain way, this becomes the makeup of who we are. This then means that people believe this is what we are like, and we can draw a line from this to addiction. The fact is that forgiveness is a transformative power, particularly in an unforgiving society, but we have to remember that in an unforgiving world, acts of forgiveness can be an excellent example. If we are to make a change in the world, we have to do what we can to model the behaviours we think are important. 

Forgiveness can be incredibly challenging, especially in a society that experiences deeper injustices. Above all else, it’s a vital practice for personal growth and to foster a more compassionate world. As the planet we live on becomes more and more divided with every passing day, we can’t ignore what forgiveness can do. Rather than viewing it as some age-old practice associated with some guy who was hung on the cross, forgiveness can be an amazing psychological tool that doesn’t just help us to cope in the modern world but boosts the foundations of our very existence. 

We live in an existence where more people are physically and mentally ill, stress is at an all-time high, and people are struggling to make ends meet. Therefore, learning how to let things go sounds incredibly simple and is often a common piece of advice, but it seems that now it’s more essential than ever to learn this art.