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The Long Term Value of Forgiveness

“To err is human,” is a quote from an Alexander Pope essay, declaring “it is natural for people to make mistakes and it is important to forgive people when they do.” A simple quote most will agree with, yet many find it hard to apply. Learning to forgive begins within the family unit when a child is old enough to understand actions have consequences, yet most parents find it easier to teach a child to say, “I’m sorry,” than to teach the importance of forgiveness. A child breaks a dish and says, “I’m sorry” – the parent responds with a lecture on the need to “be more careful.” A toddler is struck by a playmate; the teacher insists the offender say, “I’m sorry,” telling the assaulted child to just walk away. Why is it so hard to teach forgiveness? Why is it so hard to say, “I forgive?”


At one point in their lifetime, everyone will experience emotional or physical pain caused by another. A teacher falsely accusing, a hurried parent, a criminal offense, a broken relationship, a victim of bullying and/or abuse. In today’s technology-based environment, adolescents and teens face name-calling, rumors, intimidation, and lies.

In today’s divisive environment, discussions can get heated and feelings hurt when discussing religion, politics, equality, and race. A dysfunctional family environment, substance abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, revealing family secrets, sharing personal information, and/or the written word can hurt. Reactions can range from tears to self-harm, from locking oneself away to seeking revenge.


Begin by recognizing the offense for what it is. If reaching out to the offender or abuser, tell them how you feel; let them know you are hurt. When confronting them ask open-ended questions and be prepared to listen. In cases of a cheating spouse, a verbally abusive parent, an addict, a violent child, an abused senior, or a traumatic event, direct confrontation can lead to resentment, triggering flight, fright, or physical harm. In these and similar traumatic cases, the counselors and therapists of Improving Lives Counseling Services can help. The Forgiveness Therapy Model is a therapeutic approach used to provide clients with the tools and help needed to forgive themselves and others.


Experiencing emotional and/or physical pain (hurt) can trigger mistrust, stress, anxiety, and depression. An inability to forgive can lead to chronic physiological and psychological pain. People who remain angry, seek revenge, or fail to forgive can experience high blood pressure, chronic pain, immune disorders, and heart disease. Seeking revenge: “…the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands” prolongs the pain and can lead to unlawful or criminal acts. Holding on to resentment and anger towards oneself or others affects all aspects of life and can lead to suicidal behavior.


forgivenessWhen, where, and how you forgive is up to you. Many victims of criminal acts forgive the prisoner in the courtroom. Parents forgive their children for misbehaving, children forgive their parents for failure to parent them, spouses forgive one another for cheating, and children forgive friends for wrongdoings.

You will not always know or understand why someone hurt you. You may not know if it was intentional or unintentional. Forgiving the person doesn’t mean you accept or understand the hurt they caused, it simply means you are letting go of the pain. When you have the right tools, forgiving can heal deep wounds and provide psychological benefits.

If you or someone you know is suffering from hurt and want to learn about forgiveness therapy, Improving Lives Counseling Services can help. We treat children, adolescents, teens, adults, and seniors in online (virtual) and in-person, individual, couples, family, and group sessions. Live the life you were meant to live. Call us. 918-960-7852