Forgiveness is the release of resentment; it replaces the negative feelings often harbored toward offenders with neutral feelings, or in some cases, positive feelings. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean a reconciliation. We don’t have to return to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone who has hurt us.
The act of forgiveness is first and foremost for ourselves. It lets us move on from the past instead of leading bitterness and anger to perturb our emotional well-being. Research bears out these benefits: Forgiveness has been shown to elevate mood, enhance optimism, and guard against anger, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Carrying the hurt or anger of an offense leads the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Eliminating the perpetual flow of those hormones may also explain why forgiveness provides physical health benefits, such as lowering the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.
Although burying the hatchet usually brings peace to the soul, there may be some exceptions to that advice, such as a case of sexual abuse. Sometimes a victim becomes more empowered when they give themselves permission not to forgive.
Equally, and perhaps more important, is learning to acknowledge your missteps and forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness is often the first step toward a more loving and positive relationship with yourself, and therefore with others.