Rediscover Happiness: The Powerful Benefits of Forgiveness

Over the past few months, we have been exploring the steps of the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom’s (FDCW) 16 guidelines series in relation to the important aspects of “How we think” including Humility, Patience, Contentment and Delight and “How we act”, including Kindness, Honesty, Generosity and Right Speech. Last month we started to delve into “How we relate” with “Respect” and this month we are rediscovering happiness with the powerful benefits of Forgiveness.

Introduction: The Underrated Benefits of Forgiveness

In today’s world, rife with complexities and interconnectedness, forgiveness emerges as an indispensable skill for achieving mental and emotional equilibrium. Forgiveness is a selfless act, forgiving someone is actually doing something for someone else, it’s altruistic, you’re forgiving them. The concept of forgiveness goes beyond an act of kindness towards another; it is also an act of kindness to oneself.

“Forgiveness is the capacity to reclaim our peace of mind when something has happened to disturb us. As we go through life it is inevitable that we are going to hurt one another. In fact, as our world becomes more complex and interconnected, the opportunities for conflict increase. We have the choice whether to respond to these hurts and conflicts with anger and bitterness, or with forgiveness.”

16 Guidelines for Life – The Basics (2009) by Alison Murdoch and Dekyi-Lee Oldershaw

This article aims to delve into the nuanced facets of forgiveness, from its cultural and spiritual roots to its far-reaching physical health benefits. Whether you are on a path towards reconciliation, personal healing, or a deeper understanding of this age-old virtue, we aim to offer some illuminating insights. After all, forgiveness isn’t just a momentary decision but a continuous, transformative journey towards peace and enlightenment.

The Deep-Rooted Psychology of Forgiveness

The American Psychological Association offer the following definition of Forgiveness from a psychological perspective:

“Forgiveness involves willfully putting aside feelings of resentment toward someone who has committed a wrong, been unfair or hurtful, or otherwise harmed you in some way. Forgiveness is not merely accepting what happened or ceasing to be angry. Rather, it involves a voluntary transformation of your feelings, attitudes, and behavior, so that you are no longer dominated by resentment and can express compassion, generosity, or the like toward the person who wronged you.”

Choosing to forgive is a powerful act of self-liberation. Just as you decide to hold onto negative emotions such as bitterness, resentment, or feelings of anger, you also have the freedom to choose to let go. Making this choice is akin to unburdening yourself from a heavy weight you’ve been carrying. It’s a conscious step away from a past full of negative feelings, and toward a future where your psychological peace isn’t held hostage by others. When you forgive, you reclaim your peace of mind, echoing the insightful words from the 16 Guidelines for Life – The Basics:We have the choice whether to respond to these hurts and conflicts with anger and bitterness, or with forgiveness.”

The wisdom of Desmond Tutu offers a remarkable lens through which we can further understand forgiveness. Tutu, who lived through the extreme racial prejudices of apartheid in South Africa, emphasised the profound relationship between forgiveness and freedom. He argued that forgiveness is the path that leads from a world of endless suffering and retaliation to one of reconciliation and healing. According to Tutu, forgiveness is not just an altruistic act but a necessity for community cohesiveness and inner tranquillity. His teachings remind us that forgiving isn’t just about the other person—it’s about freeing yourself from the clutches of lingering bitterness and making room for compassion and happiness.

As we continue to explore the many dimensions of emotional forgiveness, remember that it’s a journey, not just for those who seek to forgive but also for those who wish to be unshackled from the burdens of resentment and anger.

Benefits of forgiveness | FDCW

Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (FDCW)

At FDCW we are committed to a more compassionate, wiser world. We provide resources, courses and training to develop qualities such as kindness, patience and honesty – qualities which are essential for meeting the challenges of the world we all share.

The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom (FDCW) was established as a global charity based in London in 2005. Since then we have provided secular training, programmes and resources across many sectors of society – schools, universities, hospices, workplaces, healthcare, youth groups and community centres. Our courses have reached thousands of people across the world through our dedicated and growing network of facilitators in more than 20 countries.

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