Two Ways Forgiveness Helps You Through Tough Times

Why the best way to recover might be to let go.

“Forgiveness is an important expression of generosity of giving,” says Stephen G. Post in a recent video from Big Think. Post is a bioethicist and bestselling author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times.

Post argues that forgiveness doesn’t ask you to be naive, especially when you’ve really been harmed by someone and when the hurt is deep and profound. In fact, it provides you with the space to think about your emotions in a healthier way to accept and appreciate your life. Here are the two ways that forgiveness offers a way through tough times:

Concentrate on helping others

When you focus on caring for others rather than on how much you’ve been hurt, when you look forward to the future rather than being stuck in the difficult past, you get a moment of reprieve. You can shift the focus while also immersing yourself in an activity that makes you feel needed in an essential way. 

“You don’t necessarily have to go to the mountains in Colorado and meditate on compassion,” says Post, “If you just do small acts of generosity in an active way your emotions tend to follow you.”  

Let time work its magic

The more time you spend away from the epicenter of deep hurt, you may gradually begin to feel better. 

Letting go doesn’t mean you are cowardly or weak or that you want to escape reality. On the contrary, it proves that you are brave and have the capacity to work through hostile emotions: anger, bitterness, rumination are harmful for your health, especially for your heart. In Post’s talk, he mentions that a cardiologist at Duke University found that if people experienced large amounts of hostility—they were quick to anger, prone to violence, unforgiving, and so forth, they had a 20 percent mortality rate by age 50.

Are you holding on to a past hurt at the moment? Take three minutes and try this mindfulness practice on forgiveness.