Want to forgive others and dissolve anger? Enhance empathy

Pink flowers in sunlightActress Susan Sarandon said, “When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.” I believe this is true. Having empathy – the ability to understand another person’s point-of-view and feelings – helps us in many ways. It can enhance our capacity to love, help us dissolve anger and help us forgive others, all of which give us extra happiness.

What’s one way to help us let go of anger and forgive others by gaining empathy? Read on.

What does forgiving others mean?
Why forgive others?
How can we forgive others?
What sort of upbringing did they have?
What sort of people do they associate with?
What might have made them behave like this?
What were they thinking to do what they did?
What are some constructive ways to think about people we want to forgive?

What does forgiving others mean?

There are various meanings for forgiveness. One could be to pretend something didn’t happen and then try to never think about it again. This is unrealistic, and doesn’t deal with the negative feelings from the situation.

To me forgiving others means letting go of the bitterness, resentment and anger towards people we feel have hurt us, annoyed us and so on. The hurt could be emotional, physical, spiritual… It doesn’t necessarily mean we label the behavior as acceptable or harmless, as it might be far from it.

Why forgive others?

Have you ever fully forgiven someone and felt a mental and spiritual release? I have, and it felt fantastic. You might have had a similar experience yourself.

I used to carry around some past hurts for years. They ate away at my happiness and peace of mind. They hindered my creativity and made me angry and upset.

It often took a while to forgive people, but when I did it was well worth it. My soul felt freer, lighter and brighter. I had more energy to achieve my goals, instead of stewing in the past. I gained extra happiness, peace and harmony.

… If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.”

- Glenn Clark, Author

… He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

- Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 – 1968)

How can we forgive others?

There are many ways to help us forgive; some work better than others. Find ways that work for you.

Years ago I read a statement about overcoming anger that has helped me a lot; it was “empathy is a cure for anger.” As much of my past anger was caused by not forgiving others, I’ve since found that empathy is a key to forgiveness.

Wikipedia says “empathy is the capacity to share and understand another’s emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes”, or in some way experience what the other person is feeling.”

So how can we achieve more empathy for people we want to forgive? Try this technique:

Decide who we want to forgive and what we want to forgive them for. Ask ourselves questions to help understand why they might have behaved that way. We might never find the answers, but if we try to look at the situation from the other people’s point-of-view, we can increase our empathy, so propel us onto the road to forgiveness.

What sort of upbringing did they have?

Perhaps they were brought-up with values and people that encouraged, or didn’t discourage, the negative behavior. We don’t have to like these traits, but we can try to empathize that many people find it difficult to overcome negative behaviors.

What sort of people do they associate with?

Maybe they associate with people who think and behave in a similar negative way. If they were around people who were kinder and more compassionate, they would become kinder and more compassionate.

… One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession.”

- Sophocles

What might have made them behave like this?

Perhaps sometime in their lives they were hurt, or someone close to them was hurt, and they don’t want to be hurt again.

They might be trying to prevent a negative experience happening to themselves or others.

Maybe they have developed inappropriate coping techniques that hurt other people.

They might be arrogant or selfish, or lack compassion and empathy, so behave accordingly.

What were they thinking to do what they did?

People make excuses for their behavior. We do not have to agree with them, but we might gain more empathy if we understand the reasoning behind their behavior.

  • I deserved to get it and I didn’t. I’m now angry, hurt…so I’ll get revenge…
  • I get what I want (or I can do what I want) irrespective of whether or not it hurts, upsets…
  • They need to be taught a lesson.
  • I enjoy this; it makes me happy.
  • I didn’t do anything wrong – it’s their fault.

What are some constructive ways to think about people we want to forgive?

Here are some helpful ways to think about people we aim to forgive. Apply them as you see fit and create your own.

  • The people were unaware they were being rude, nasty, thoughtless…
  • People do not have to treat me in certain ways for me to be happy. Ultimately I am in control of my happiness.
  • I will find better ways to deal with the negative behavior if they behave like that towards me again.
  • The people do that to many people, not just me, so it’s not personal. It’s their problem. To a certain degree I can choose whether I want to be annoyed and hurt by them. From now on I will try to ignore/not get angry at their behavior.
  • Most people usually do the best they can given the circumstances. I do not have to agree with what they did, but we are all different and that’s the way they chose to behave.
  • The people were behaving the best they could in an unfamiliar situation. I would behave differently, but I’m not them.
  • They were under pressure/the influence of others, to behave in a certain way, which was unexpected or out-of-character.

Summary

Forgiving others frees us from past hurts and gives us extra happiness. By trying to understand the point-of-view, situation and feelings of people who’ve hurt us we can gain empathy, which helps us forgive them.

… If you have an enemy, forgive him now.
Let all bitterness and resentment dissolve.
You owe your fellow man love; show him love, not hate.
Show charity and goodwill toward others
and it will return to enhance your own life
in many wonderful ways.”

- Brian Adams from How to Succeed

written by Nyomi Graef

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3 Responses to “Want to forgive others and dissolve anger? Enhance empathy”

  1. Hilda says:

    Dropping one’s prejudices opens up a whole new area without recriminations.
    Relationships following your ideas would really flourish!
    Keep the positive insights posting.
    Good luck in your work. I really like your concepts.

  2. Nyomi says:

    Thank you for your comment, Hilda. I’m glad you like the blog.
    Kind regards,
    Nyomi

  3. Inayath says:

    how can you forgive people, what if people were were being rude, nasty, thoughtless?

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