The power of forgiveness: 10 reasons to let go of resentment and embrace healing

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You’ve been holding onto anger. For some, this feels like a weight in their body — for others, more like nervous electric energy in the stomach. 

Either way, it’s been making your life difficult, both physically and emotionally.

Forgiveness is clearly the way forward – but there’s still something holding you back.

It might be wanting to get justice, or what happened feels too big to forgive. 

Today I’m here to tell you all the amazing reasons to let go of resentment and what embracing healing can do for your life, so you can finally move forward without the heavy load.

1) It only hurts you

Forgiveness may feel righteous, because it’s like some form of revenge against whoever hurt us.

“You did this to me, now I get to hate you.”

But what is your anger actually doing to that person? Even if they feel bad that you’re hurt, you’re the one who feels the anger.

It’s your body and mind that it’s living in, and I’m sure I don’t need to say that it’s not a pleasant feeling to have as a permanent resident inside you.

What Buddha said is completely true: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

So you should let go of resentment and embrace healing first of all, because it has only to do with you. The other person doesn’t even need to know, and your life will be so much happier for it. 

2) It doesn’t validate or excuse the behavior

Most of us can get behind the idea that letting go of resentment only does you good.

But you might still feel an internal resistance, because you want to hold on to the feeling that what was done to you is wrong and forgiveness might seem like it would be validating the behavior.

But that’s not the case. Most researchers agree that:

  • Forgiving doesn’t mean that what the person did to you was okay
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean you forget what happened
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean making up with the person who hurt you
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean pretending the person didn’t hurt you
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean stuffing your emotions down and never thinking about them
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re weak — on the contrary!

You can let go of resentment and still enforce healthy boundaries, or not have a relationship with the person anymore. 

3) It makes you a kinder person

What happens if you don’t let go of resentment?

Scientists have actually developed a scale of forgiveness and found that resentment has two main components. 

The first is wanting “revenge”. In other words, you want to get back at the person who hurt you, or wish they would get hurt. 

So if you don’t let go of resentment, you’ll find yourself having thoughts like these:

  • “I’ll make them pay”
  • “I wish that something bad would happen to them”
  • “I want them to get what they deserves”
  • “I’m going to get even”
  • “I want to see them hurt and miserable”

Sounds like pretty much every movie villain ever, right? 

Your pain is totally justified, but you probably don’t want to be the person who walks around with this soundtrack in their mind. 

When you forgive and embrace healing, you can switch to a kinder track — one of love and compassion — and embody the best version of you. 

4) You stop limiting yourself

Above, we mentioned that scientists found two main components to holding onto anger.

The first, as we said, is thoughts of revenge. The second is avoidance.

This could include giving up going to a party, or participating in a course, or posting something online, because you’re afraid they might be there or see it.

It’s understandable to want to avoid contact with the person who hurt you. But think about this: do you want to let that person change how you want to live your life?

The reason why you’re avoiding them is because you’re afraid of how you will feel in their presence. And the truth is, it will probably feel pretty darn uncomfortable at first. 

But do it anyway. 

You can’t let what they did to you continue to limit you — all just because of a feeling. Living your life on your terms is much more important, and with time, it won’t feel so uncomfortable anymore. 

5) You take back control over your happiness

When you let go of resentment, you stop wanting revenge and you stop avoiding the person too.

But to truly embrace healing, you have to go further. 

Forgiveness researcher Dr. Bob Enright says true forgiveness means “offering something positive — empathy, compassion, understanding — toward the person who hurt you.”

Another psychologist explains this as “cancelling the debt.”

“When someone does us wrong, we feel as though they have taken something that belongs to us – our peace, our joy, our happiness – and that they now ‘owe us.’ When we forgive them, we simply release the debt. It’s no longer ‘you’ve hurt me and you’ve got to pay’. We don’t pretend the debt never existed, we just forgive it. ‘You no longer owe me anything.’”

This is incredible for your healing because you’re no longer waiting for the person to give you something in order to be happy again. 

You take your happiness back into your own hands.

6) You become happier

This might sound pretty obvious — but the main reason to let go of resentment and embrace healing is that it makes you happier.

If what we’ve gone through above isn’t enough, there are plenty of studies that prove this.

As they show, forgiveness:

7) It improves your health 

If your health is important to you, that’s a huge reason to let go of resentment.

First of all, it helps you decrease stress and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol

There are also amazing benefits to the heart: lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease

And here are some more health benefits to boot:

8) You live in the present rather than the past

Let’s be honest: the hardest person to forgive can be yourself.

Even if you’re resenting someone else, it might be because you’re angry you didn’t stand up for yourself properly, or you’re ashamed for something you did and the way they made you feel about yourself. 

But you have to remember: your mistakes don’t define you. The lessons you learn from them do. 

The fact that you’re struggling with this shows that you care about being a good person.

And forgiveness will only help you with that, as it makes you more likely to make better decisions in the future. You’ll stop repeating the same mistakes. 

9) It helps even for severely negative events

I don’t know what exactly you’re dealing with – it could be a spat with a colleague, an ongoing feud with your neighbor, or even something extremely drastic. 

Whenever I hear a story about someone who went through something horrible and forgave the person, I find it incredible and deeply admirable. 

One particular example comes to mind: psychology professor and forgiveness researcher Dr. Everett Worthington.

His ability to forgive was put to the test in the most horrible way imaginable: his mother was murdered in a home invasion. Police were sure they had identified the perpetrator, but he was never prosecuted. 

This is the kind of event we would consider “unforgivable” — but Dr. Worthington shows it isn’t. 

He says, “I had applied the forgiveness model many times, but never to such a big event. As it turned out, I was able to forgive the young man quite quickly.”

I hope nobody reading this is dealing with anything remotely so awful — but if you are, know that you too can find peace. 

10) It has the same benefits as 40 years of zen training

We’ve gone through 9 compelling reasons to let go of resentment and embrace healing.

Now here’s the cherry on top of the cake.

You know those Zen experts who spend entire decades meditating? Well, you can get the same emotional benefits as them, and all you have to do is forgive. 

This was found by a program called 40 Years of Zen. It measured alpha waves during meditation and found that holding onto grudges is the single biggest factor suppressing those waves. 

Even people with little meditation experience could achieve the alpha brain state once they forgave. Talk about a shortcut to inner peace!

Final thoughts

Forgiveness is a beautiful topic, but also heavy, because it is always attached to a lot of trauma and pain. 

I hope these 10 reasons have convinced you that it’s worth investing your time into. 

It might take some time, but like everything else you can get better at it the more effort you put in. 

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Silvia Adamyova

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada, with a translation degree from University of Ottawa and an editing certificate from Simon Fraser University. Now based back in Slovakia (if you’re wondering why - have you seen Canadian winters?). Full-time freelance English teacher, translator, editor, and copywriter. Part-time avid reader, self-development junkie, and cake addict. I hope my writing inspires you in some way — if it does, find me on LinkedIn or Instagram and let me know!

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