“When you forgive, you don’t change the past – you change the future.”
– Paul Boese

We’ve all experienced situations where someone has done us wrong and caused us pain, sadness, or frustration. After these moments, we are often left reeling and replaying the situation in our head, letting the hurt fester and grow. But what can we do about it?

That’s where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is a powerful word. It means making a conscious choice to let go of feelings of resentment toward someone who has hurt you. It doesn’t mean you condone the wrongdoing that was done, and it doesn’t mean you forget what happened. It just means you are choosing to release yourself from negative feelings and move past the situation. 

When you forgive someone, it isn’t necessarily for their benefit; in fact, they may never even know you extended that forgiveness. And they don’t need to. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It’s the gift of emotional freedom. Whether you realize it or not, when you hold onto bitterness and resentment, you give power to the person that hurt you. You allow them to consume your thoughts and emotions with the words or actions they inflicted upon you. But by choosing to forgive them, you free yourself from the weight of that. You acknowledge the hurt that happened, and you demonstrate that you won’t let it hold you captive.

Hanging onto that hurt beyond the time for letting go fosters a corrosive spirit of negativity. Negativity unchecked destroys relationships. Forgiveness is the antidote to negativity. Sometimes, people don’t even realize that they have hurt us…and they are often the people we are the closest to. Forgiveness helps break the negativity you’ve attached to that person and gives the relationship space to heal. When you replace the hurt with healing, it’s easier to see the positives that person brings to the table rather than focusing only on the negatives.  

Forgiveness also gives you the freedom to choose how best to move forward. While you don’t have to forget the hurt that has happened, you may choose to forgive the person who hurt you; from there, decide what the next steps are for your relationship. You may choose to rekindle that relationship or release it entirely – the choice is always yours.

Being at odds with another person over time is incredibly uncomfortable and emotionally damaging. It will affect you in more ways than you even realize. Forgiveness allows you to move forward with a fresh start instead of keeping yourself stuck in the past. 

This week, think about where you may be holding onto the bitterness of past hurt. Embrace the path of peace and choose to let go of that bitterness and forgive. Even if you don’t communicate that with the person that wronged you, make up your mind to release that hurt and move forward in freedom. You will be happier for it.