Why Is Forgiveness Important? (16 Reasons + Expert Insights)

I’ve found that to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was me. Forgiveness is about cutting ties with past pains that hold us back. It’s not condoning what was done wrong; it’s about not letting those actions ruin our peace today. It’s a pathway to feeling free and light, releasing us from old bonds.

Curious about how forgiving can enhance your life and health? Join me as we discuss the meaningful reasons why embracing forgiveness could be the best decision you make for yourself.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional advice.

What Is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness, as described by Dr. Carrie Lam, a board-certified Family Medicine practitioner, involves the ability not to let past pains control our thoughts and actions. It’s different from the simple notion of “forgive and forget,” which might address symptoms rather than underlying issues.

Instead, forgiveness should involve a process of reframing our perspective—understanding the circumstances of the offense from an objective point of view to truly move past it.

Dr. Lam suggests that this deeper approach, as advocated in Dr. Dick Tibbits’ book “Forgive to Live,” helps us resolve core emotional conflicts, enabling us not just to survive past hurts, but to thrive beyond them.

It Enhances Emotional Well-Being

Forgiving someone isn’t just about them; it’s also about you. When you hold on to resentment and anger, it can weigh heavily on your emotions, impacting your overall happiness.

Letting go of these negative feelings through forgiveness can significantly enhance your emotional well-being. Think about it: why let someone else’s actions live rent-free in your mind and heart, causing you distress?

I mean, we all know that feeling of relief when we finally let go of a grudge. It’s like a heavy weight is lifted off your shoulders, and suddenly, you can breathe a little easier. You’ll find that your mood improves, you’re more optimistic, and you’re generally happier. Emotional well-being is foundational for a fulfilling life, and forgiveness can play a big role in achieving that.

It Promotes Inner Peace

Inner peace, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful gifts forgiveness can offer. When you forgive, you make peace with the past, allowing yourself to live in the present without the constant burden of past wrongs.

This shift is vital for achieving inner peace. Imagine going through your day without that nagging voice in your head reminding you of the pain someone caused. Feels liberating, doesn’t it?

It Strengthens Relationships

Forgiveness can be a game-changer for your relationships. We all mess up sometimes, and holding on to grudges does nothing but create distance between you and the people you care about.

By forgiving, you open the door to healing and rebuilding trust. This doesn’t mean that you forget what happened, but you choose to let go of the anger and move on.

Imagine a scenario where a friend hurt you with their words. Instead of cutting them off forever, you choose to forgive. This act can lead to an honest conversation where both sides understand each other better and grow closer as a result.

Your relationships, whether with family, friends, or significant others, can reach new levels of understanding and intimacy when forgiveness is part of the equation.

When forgiveness is present, it acts as a bridge. It not only mends what’s broken but often makes the relationship stronger than before. And who doesn’t want stronger, more meaningful connections?

It Reduces Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression often thrive on unresolved issues and lingering emotional pain. When we hold grudges, these feelings can morph into chronic anxiety and depression, making everyday life a challenge.

Forgiving someone can help break this cycle. It’s like deciding to stop picking at a wound so it can finally start to heal.

I’m sure you’ve had nights where you toss and turn thinking about a past argument. Your heart races, and sleep feels impossible. But by forgiving, you’re telling yourself that it’s okay to let go. You’re giving yourself permission to move forward.

This change can reduce the pressure on your mind and heart, creating space for calmness and joy instead. It’s a powerful step toward reducing those overwhelming feelings of anxiety and depression, and trust me, your overall mental health will thank you for it.

It Improves Overall Quality of Life

When you choose forgiveness, you’re choosing to enhance the quality of your life in multiple ways. Think about it this way: less stress, better relationships, and a more positive outlook are all part of a higher quality of life.

Instead of being stuck in a loop of negative emotions and thoughts, you free yourself to experience life’s joys fully.

Consider this: You wake up with a lighter heart and a clearer mind. Small annoyances don’t bother you as much, and you’re able to appreciate the good moments more deeply. You interact with people in a more positive way, and they respond in kind, creating a ripple effect of goodness all around you.

It Promotes Emotional Healing

Emotional wounds can be just as painful—if not more so—than physical ones. Holding onto hurt creates mental scars that can be difficult to heal. Forgiveness is like applying a soothing balm to these emotional wounds. It’s the first step toward real, lasting healing.

Remember, emotional healing doesn’t mean the hurt never happened; it means you’re choosing not to let it control your life anymore. This choice allows your heart to mend and become stronger.

By forgiving, you’re not letting the person who hurt you off the hook—you’re setting yourself free. And freedom is the first step to true emotional wellness.

It Increases Empathy and Understanding

Forgiving someone often leads to a deeper understanding and empathy towards the person who caused the harm. This process involves stepping into their shoes and attempting to understand their actions from their perspective.

Such an approach doesn’t justify the wrong, but it makes us comprehend the complexities of human behavior. This understanding can then translate into greater empathy not only towards the individual in question but also towards others we interact with.

As empathy grows, individuals are more adept at handling personal and professional relationships, recognizing the emotional undertones that influence people’s actions.

It Lets Go of Grievances

Holding onto grievances can take a significant toll on your mental and emotional health. Choosing to forgive allows you to release these grievances, setting you free from the cycle of negative emotions and thoughts that hamper your happiness.

Letting go is not about ignoring the hurt you felt, but about not allowing it to control your life. This release is incredibly liberating and is often accompanied by a newfound peace and freedom.

You may find that without these burdens, you are more open to experiencing joy and engaging in life fully.

It Encourages Personal Growth

Forgiveness is a powerful catalyst for personal growth. When you forgive, you’re not just letting go of anger and pain; you’re also embracing a more mature, emotionally intelligent version of yourself. It takes courage and strength to forgive, and these acts build character.

Consider this: Every time you choose to forgive, you’re practicing self-discipline, humility, and resilience. You’re learning to balance your emotions, regulate your responses, and navigate complex relationships more effectively.

These skills are invaluable in all areas of life, from personal relationships to professional settings. In essence, forgiveness helps you become the best version of yourself. It encourages you to rise above your circumstances and grow in ways you never thought possible.

It Enhances Self-Esteem

Forgiving others can lead directly to a stronger sense of self-worth. When you choose to forgive, you affirm that you deserve peace and happiness, not ongoing suffering. This act of self-care tells you that your feelings matter and that you have the power to influence your emotional state positively.

Over time, taking such decisive, compassionate actions for yourself can build your confidence and self-respect. Feeling good about who you are, knowing that you can rise above hurt and resentment, significantly boosts your self-esteem.

It Improves Sleep Quality

Sleep and emotional health are deeply connected, and forgiveness plays a crucial role in improving the quality of your sleep. Holding onto negative emotions like anger and resentment can keep you up at night, leading to restless sleep or insomnia.

When you forgive, you clear these emotions, which can calm your mind and make it easier to fall asleep. The peace and relief that come from forgiveness often result in deeper, more restful sleep.

Better sleep not only leaves you feeling refreshed but also supports your mental and physical health.

It Promotes Spiritual Development

At its core, many spiritual practices emphasize forgiveness as a means to transcend personal grievances and connect with a higher state of being.

When you forgive, you’re not just letting go of negative emotions; you’re also aligning yourself with a deeper spiritual truth that values love and compassion over anger and resentment. This alignment can bring profound inner peace and a sense of purpose.

Think of it this way: by forgiving, you’re cultivating qualities like humility, patience, and understanding. These are cornerstones of many spiritual teachings.

For example, letting go of a grudge against a family member can deepen your spiritual practice by reminding you of the importance of family bonds and unconditional love. Forgiveness nurtures your soul, allowing you to grow spiritually and become a better version of yourself.

It Accepts Others with Their Faults, Setting Aside Anger and Pain

Accepting others despite their faults is a fundamental aspect of forgiveness. This doesn’t mean you ignore the wrongs or pretend they didn’t happen. Rather, it involves acknowledging that these faults are part of being human and choosing to let go of anger and pain.

This acceptance can liberate you from the cycle of resentment and retaliation, leading to healthier and more understanding interactions with others. Living without these burdens can often bring a sense of calm and clarity, allowing you to engage more positively and compassionately in your relationships.

It Reconceptualizes an Event or Person to Move Past Pain

Forgiveness often means looking at a painful event or a person who hurt you in a new way. This doesn’t imply changing the facts, but rather changing how you perceive and react to them.

By reassessing the situation or person, you can extract lessons rather than hold onto hurt, seeing the event as a part of your life that has shaped you but doesn’t define you. This shift in perspective is crucial in moving past the pain, as it allows you to focus on growth and moving forward instead of staying stuck in the past.

This process can be deeply transformative, offering a pathway to personal liberation and renewed life focus.

It Is Not a Substitute for Justice

It’s important to recognize that forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you’re excusing their behavior or that they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions.

Instead, forgiveness is about freeing yourself from the emotional burden of resentment and anger. It’s possible to seek justice while also choosing to forgive.

For example, if someone wronged you in a legal or ethical way, pursuing justice is still a valid and necessary step. However, harboring ongoing resentment and anger won’t change the past or contribute to your well-being.

By forgiving, you’re separating your need for personal emotional healing from the need for justice. This dual approach allows you to move forward with a sense of peace and closure, knowing that you’re taking care of both your emotional and practical needs.

It Allows You to Let Go of the Hope that the Past Could Have Been Different

One of the most significant steps in forgiveness is accepting that the past cannot be changed. Holding onto the hope that things could have been different only prolongs pain and disappointment.

By forgiving, you acknowledge that the past is unchangeable, and you free yourself to live more fully in the present. This doesn’t mean you forget the past or the lessons it taught you; instead, it means you stop allowing it to control your current emotions and decisions.

This release is profoundly liberating and is often the first step towards building a happier and more peaceful life.

More Insights From the Experts

“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 also explains why forgiveness provides physical health benefits, such as lowering the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.” 

Shana Olmstead, MA, LMHC | Psychotherapist

“Forgiveness is an important, but often misunderstood, tenet of most spiritual teachings. When we forgive, we release our own pain and resentments and find inner peace and acceptance of all life’s experiences.

The ability to forgive is an important step to our own healing and spiritual growth: forgiveness allows us to take a more loving stance towards both ourselves and others, and to let go of the negative energy that weighs us down and keeps us stuck re-experiencing our pains from the past.”

Victoria Shaw, Ph.D., LPC | Psychologist | Licensed Professional Counselor

“Forgiveness, when it’s real, is a place in your heart where you can let go of grievances. You cannot let go though, genuinely and authentically, unless you’ve done the pre-requisite work: the work of dealing head-on with all the feelings that are there before forgiveness comes: the anger, bitterness, helplessness, heartache, grief and more.

Dealing head-on with these feelings means you can finally resolve them. You can resolve anger when you can finally access the hurt and helplessness that’s there too. You can resolve hurt and helplessness by finally accessing the anger that should also be there.”

Dr. Claudia Luiz |Psychoanalyst

“I once read about a classroom teacher who visually showed her students how not forgiving someone could drag them down. She gives each student a sack of potatoes and asks them to write the names of someone they haven’t forgiven—someone who perhaps has made them mad or angry.

Then she asks them to put the potatoes in the sack and carry it around the room. Pretty soon the burden of carrying around the weight of not forgiving became very clear.

What the teacher was demonstrating is what Desmond and Mpho Tutu speak about in The Book of Forgiving: ‘Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness….'”

Allen Klein | Author | Professional Speaker | World’s only Jollytologist® | Speaker | TED Presenter

“Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. On a case-by-case basis, a person can be forgiven and still have to face the consequences, as the offense is sorted through. Even Jesus denounced those who had no remorse in Matthew 11:20. Forgiveness is deeper than mentally accepting an apology, it reaches down into the depths of the wounds in our souls.”

Alicea Joy Davis | Poet | Author | Founder, March Forth Movement

“True forgiveness is about disconnecting ourselves from the cycle of hurt we engage in by holding on to the person or incident. It’s about saying to ourselves, ‘yes this was hurtful to me, but I am choosing to no longer let it drive and guide me, I am choosing to be free.’

By accessing forgiveness in this way, it opens us up to a greater human and healing potential, so that we can truly move forward in our lives. By truly forgiving others, we take our power back from them or the situation so that we can use it for our own growth and alignment without continuously looking back.”

— Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc | Licensed Acupuncturist, Lions Heart Wellness

“People who are not able to forgive, live in pain for a very long period of time. They are not able to trust and open up to others. They suffer from the victim mentality and see the world in a bad light. That’s the reason why forgiveness is so important.

We ourselves feel much better once we forgive because it helps us to regulate our emotions, let go of the pain, and learn to move ahead in life. It gives us clarity in life and a greater capacity to love ourselves and others.”

— Jagjot Singh | Meditation Practitioner | Founder, Mindfulness Quest

Frequently Asked Questions

Does everyone deserve forgiveness?  

Forgiveness is a subjective topic, and whether everyone deserves it is a matter of debate. It can be considered a virtue and a way to move forward from negative experiences, but not always appropriate or possible, especially in cases of serious harm.

The decision to forgive is a personal one, and one’s perspective may depend on their individual beliefs and experiences. It is crucial to weigh the impact of forgiveness on both the person being forgiven and the person doing the forgiving.

How can parents model forgiveness for their children?

Parents can model forgiveness by demonstrating it in their own actions and interactions. Apologize and seek forgiveness when you make mistakes, and explain the importance of forgiveness to your children.

Encourage open communication about feelings and show empathy and understanding when they are hurt. This helps children learn the value of forgiveness through real-life examples.

How can forgiving improve your leadership abilities?

Forgiving can enhance leadership by fostering a culture of empathy and resilience within your team. Leaders who forgive are seen as more approachable and supportive, which can improve team morale and cooperation.

Forgiveness in leadership encourages a positive work environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth rather than failures.

Final Thoughts

Think of forgiveness as a gift to yourself—a gift that keeps on giving by cultivating inner calm and happiness. Every day offers a new chance to practice forgiveness. Let’s embrace these opportunities and watch how they transform our lives.

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Jahrine is a seeker of knowledge and personal growth. When not exploring the worlds of self-help books and spirituality, she enjoys reading dark fiction and spending time with her beloved dogs. With diverse interests, including career development, travel, and poetry, Jahrine is constantly expanding her horizons and seeking new experiences.