Do I forgive…or not

A few weeks ago, I was leading the Impact Speaking Lab with one of my former business partners in it (who also is a coaching client). That is not remarkable until you consider that when we ended our business partnership decades ago, it was ugly. Ugly to the point of having lawyers involved and not speaking to each other for years. That got me thinking about forgiveness or holding onto grudges and the price of each, plus the impact on our experiences of life and our businesses/careers.

Slights happen. Someone does or says something that impacts you. It can be anything from having your feelings hurt to impacting your business, to loss of money or something else that is important to you. Some things cost us a lot. However, holding onto the anger and resentment is costly. And likely outweighs the benefit.

So, why do people, and maybe even you, hold onto anger and resentment for years, often dying with unresolved relationships? Talking to people about this and the research I have done validates this: “If I hold onto, don’t forget, don’t forgive, I keep myself from being made to feel like a fool and prevent whatever happened from happening again.” Or something of that ilk.

First, it is flawed thinking. Whatever happened can not happen again as we cannot relive whatever has already happened. Second, being on the lookout, so to speak, for signs that it is about to happen actually sets you up to find signs. When we look for things, we generally find them and that may prevent us from having certain relationships or opportunities (which is a cost of holding onto a grudge!).

The other big cost to us of holding onto a grudge is on our bodies. Anger and resentment cause surges in cortisol. While cortisol is an important hormone, when you surge it, overproduce it, it can cause fatigue, loss of sleep, worry and anxiety. Resentments are much like you poisoning yourself to punish them – yet it doesn’t touch them! Not a good thing to do to yourself.

So, why forgive? Because forgiveness is good for you. Consider this list from an article by the Mayo Clinic:

“Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved mental health
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem”

It seems to me that when we forgive, it is very beneficial for ourselves. It is actually simple – simply choose to give up holding on to resentment, regret and anger. You let it go. The only one holding on is you, so the only one who can let it go is you.

There may be lessons for you to learn when things go wrong, but learning a lesson and holding onto the anger and resentment are distinct.

I invite you to do an inventory of all your relationships and see if there are things you can let go of. I am not saying when you do this you have to be best friends or even in each other’s lives. However, sometimes, like with myself and my former business partner, that possibility is available. Then you choose it or you don’t, but you get free, regardless.

Let me know what you forgave and what that simple act gave you.

Originally published at Janet Zaretsky     

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