In nearly everyone’s life, there is a person who has said or done something that struck a cord of resentment or hurt so deep that it’s haunted them for years, sometimes even decades. And whether the incident in question was perpetrated by a co-worker, friend or a family member, according to research, letting go of grudges could not only bring about greater happiness, it might actually be a significant benefit to your health.
According to a recent Smarter Living newsletter from the New York Times, holding on to anger has been found in studies to increase stress on the immune and cardiovascular systems and increase inflammation and the incidence of chronic illness in older age. Carrying the baggage of old resentment or a feeling of ill will towards someone only harms the individual who harbors the grudge. And being unwilling to forgive and let go can cause emotional and mental harm as well; a heightened stress response over time can lead to depression.
By embracing forgiveness, adults can lighten their burden and move forward with greater joy and ease. Distancing yourself from the incident that sparked the grudge and shifting your perspective away from being a victim and recasting yourself as a hero can be liberating. Forgiveness is just for you, not for anyone else and does not necessarily require you to reconnect with the person who hurt your feelings.
If you need a little more help finding your way to forgiveness, visit Greater Good in Action, Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life, a collaboration of methods for a happier, more meaningful life developed by UC Berkeley. In the Nine Steps to Forgiveness practice, it is stated that “a life well lived is your best revenge”. By putting more energy into being grateful for what you have and not focusing on what is lacking from your life or on things that have caused you pain, you will be able to see the beauty, love and kindness all around you.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela