A quote about forgiveness:

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.

— Lewis B. Smedes

In life, there will be highs and lows. As sunshine is countered with rain, joy is similarly countered with pain. Thankfully, we have people in our lives to help us celebrate ours wins and support us through the losses. But what should we do when the people we love most are the ones who cause our suffering? The answer is: practice forgiveness. Here are three reasons you should extend forgiveness to your family members.  

1. Forgiveness benefits you. 

Lingering trauma causes long-term mental, physical and spiritual stress. When someone hurts us, we process the negative event in many different ways. Sometimes, we spend our nights tossing and turning while mentally replaying what happened. Other times we internalize the anger and resentment by eating more to mask our feelings. We can even express our frustrations through explosive anger or by withdrawing completely. None of these coping techniques lead to positive results. Instead of heading toward the road to forgiveness, we delve further into our negative emotions. 

What we fail to realize is, forgiveness provides reprieve for ourselves – it’s not about the other person. Typically, when forgiveness is brought up in conversation, it is primarily associated with the idea of liberating the offender. But in reality, the person who receives the most benefit is you. When you make a conscious decision to let go of the anger, hurt and desire for revenge, you mentally free yourself to focus on other things. Negative emotions can be all-consuming. Fortunately, forgiveness offers refuge and gives the gift of inner peace.  

2. They may need your forgiveness.

If your family member is aware of their hurtful actions, they may be feeling a mix of guilt, remorse, and disappointment. They may also be experiencing the same symptoms you endured as the receiving party. Additionally, self-anger, hyper-criticism, and embarrassment can be hard to handle, especially if they truly care about you. By forgiving your family member, you grant them permission to release the heavy burden of causing undue pain to someone they love. By forgiving them, you also model grace and mercy. When people receive grace and mercy, they are inspired to extend it to someone else. You can be the person in their life who sparks the chain reaction of kind responses to suffering at the hand of someone else’s mistakes. 

3. Heal and Move Forward.

Forgiveness allows you to move past the hurt. When you are in the middle of working through the emotions and aftereffects of trauma, it’s difficult to think of life beyond that. That’s why it’s necessary to dedicate time and effort to your personal journey of healing. Some people choose to rely on self-help books and materials, while others seek professional therapy. As long as your healing process involves the formation of healthy habits, coping skills and outlets, there is no wrong way to find the light at the end of the tunnel. Once you’ve done the work, you’ll have the necessary tools to move forward with the lessons you’ve learned and a new outlook. 

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not always linear. Be kind to yourself and be prepared to exercise patience. The next time you find yourself in a hurtful situation with a family member, remember these three reasons to forgive. In the end, you’ll be glad that you made the choice to free yourself and move toward brighter days.

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