Research on the psychology of forgiveness over the past 30 years has revealed that those who forgive can overcome psychological and physical difficulties like resentment, anxiety, and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even restricted blood flow through the heart (Hebl & Enright, 1993; Freedman & Enright, 1996; Yu et al., 2021). (Waltman et al., 2009). Less well-known and discussed in the literature on psychology: You can genuinely repair your own humanity as the way that forgiving people, taking the time to comprehend their hurts, feeling sympathy for them, and showing kindness to the one who offended. As a result, you will grow stronger and become a better person. Once you have traveled the path of forgiveness, think about these four dimensions of developing your humanity.
1. Increased positive feelings toward the self
There is a propensity to believe the falsehood that others are saying or hinting about you when we are subjected to unfair treatment by others. As people criticize you, you may eventually internalize their message and start to feel bad about yourself, even though these feelings are unwarranted. The paradox is that when you extend kindness to the offender, kindness toward yourself starts to grow as well. You experience a shift in how you feel about yourself, from being even slightly critical of yourself to having major self-loathing, to kindness toward yourself and higher self-esteem. For instance, we observed this in the research of incest survivors who came to us with a negative opinion of themselves (Freedman & Enright, 1996). They started to understand that they did nothing wrong as they started to forgive. Their low self-esteem was a product of the ongoing inner turmoil that they had all been battling for years. Positive thoughts about themselves were rebuilt.
2. Cognitive insights into one’s own worth as a person
When people experience extreme unfairness, there is a propensity to blame the unfair actors. The propensity is to primarily define the other person by their wrong conduct. The conclusion is that the offender is not a respectable individual. Similar conclusions are frequently made by the victim involuntarily: I am also not a person of worth. If I were, I would not have experienced this. People strive to regard the offender as having inherent (built-in) worth that cannot be earned or taken away, even by terrible behavior, as they forgive—sometimes over months because this is a challenge. This is the case since each person on this globe is unique and hence irreplaceable. When this way of thinking is presented to the offender, it eventually results in a direct application of the concept to the self. If everyone has intrinsic value because we are all different, irreplaceable, and special, then I do too. An individual who has long struggled with low self-esteem may find this concept to be a revelation.
3. Increased ability to trust in important relationships
When one person violates trust by their behavior, such as a previous spouse, this can be so traumatic that the victim applies a general lack of trust to everyone—including possible future partners. The prevailing belief becomes that “no one can be trusted”. When they forgive, people come to understand that it is a tool for preventing very negative emotions, which can give them the strength to begin a new relationship (knowing that if it does not work out, forgiveness can be a strong protection). Consequently, forgiving someone can rebuild trust in general, rather than necessarily toward an unrepentant ex-partner, opening the door to a mutually rewarding relationship in the future with a new spouse. The adult children’s sense of trust was harmed as a result of witnessing a tense relationship between their mother and father. Their ability to forgive resulted in a notable improvement in the caliber of their interactions with other people.
4. A more positive identity: Who am I really?
When someone treats them terribly, they may adopt a new negative persona, such as “I am a victim.” These phrases may serve as the cornerstone of a broad identity that tends to rule the subject’s own thinking. The individual views themselves as a victim who has been unfairly treated in the past and will continue to be so. When emotionally abused women forgave their ex-partner, they experienced a statistically significant transition in their identity from “victim” to a more positive sense of their own individuality, according to a study by Reed and Enright (2006). It was once remarked to me by someone, “As I forgave, I went from seeing myself as a victim to a survivor to now a thriver. One’s identity is being substantially reconstructed by doing this.
I hope you can see that forgiveness has earned its rightful place among scientifically proven methods for lowering negative psychological traits like resentment, anxiety, and despair. When someone decides to forgive without external pressure, it has the power to mend the broken pieces of one’s humanity. Genuine self-liking can emerge from negative feelings of self-dislike. Once the forgiver presents this sense of worth to the offender for the first time, the latent belief that “I am a person of inherent worth” may resurface (or may emerge for the first time). As the forgiver realizes that trust is achievable and even if the subsequent relationship does not work out, the person can forgive and protect themselves, the barrier of mistrusting others can be overcome. Those who are able to forgive can rebuild their sense of who they are as humans. They can reject the notion that they are merely victims and show themselves to be strong, capable individuals. All of this demonstrates how mankind was dismantled piece by piece and then rebuilt into a whole, healthy individual with great traits.