Moving Forward: The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog

Open up to the idea of healing, and little by little each day you will feel a little closer to becoming free.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.

Suffering and pain are an unfortunate part of life. When we feel betrayed or slighted by the actions of another, we often hold grudges that lead to the burn of anger. But as a wise Buddhist saying goes, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” The truth of this statement stings, as we all know the feeling.

Scientific research has shown over and over that rumination on angry thoughts leads to physical manifestations of that pain. Bottling up betrayals brings on muscle tension, high blood pressure, and undue stress on our heart, and it’s even been proven to lower your immunity and put you at risk for depression. Holding on to past hurts can literally make you sick. 

Maybe you lost someone you trusted or your family has not been the same after a divorce or traumatic event. Even misunderstandings with strangers can lead to long-term hurts that never seem to heal. Sometimes we taste this bitterness for years–well after the painful event took place. But with the costly toll this mental anguish can take on your physical health, something’s gotta give. 

To start you must realize that all is not lost, even if you’ve been hurt deeply. We were born with wondrous resiliency – we are designed to recover from injuries. But what is the secret to righting past wrongs and getting past the pain so you can heal? It’s simple, but certainly not easy–we must forgive. 

The Aramaic word for forgive, literally means to “untie.” Forgiveness is what frees us from the ties that bind us to our pain and suffering. We must forgive to free ourselves from being tangled up in old wrongs. And you in the process, you may find that your muscle aches and high blood pressure, and depression improve, as well. You’ll begin to form healthier relationships and make way for overall wellbeing and spiritual wholeness. 


Here are some ways to let go of the past and move forward with forgiveness:


 Let it all out

Share your troubles with a trusted friend or therapist. Acknowledge how deeply you feel this pain and how much you’d like to let it go.


Give yourself time

We may tire of hearing the phrase “time heals all wounds,” but there’s just so much truth in these four simple words. Open up to the idea of healing, and little by little each day you will feel a little closer to becoming free.


Leave a little space

Know that you have a right to move on from unhealthy relationships. You are under no obligation to keep giving your trust and love to someone who is not a positive force in your life. And just because you forgive them, does not mean they still deserve a place in your life now. 


Lean on the experts

Get professional help if you cannot find a way to move forward; the health risks are too great to just hope that kind of pain will go away on its own.  I often recommend the book “Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness,” written by Dr. Fred Luskin, Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. 


Forgive yourself

When you find the hurts are directed inward, it’s time to be compassionate with yourself. Think of how you would treat your best friend or a kind stranger, and imagine what you might say to comfort them. Take the sting out of the words you repeat to yourself, and begin to heal that broken heart.