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How to Forgive — and Why You Should

Letting go of grudges is good for you. Here, easy ways to make it happen.

En español |Most everyone — from medical doctors and psychologists to spiritual teachers — agrees that forgiveness is a virtue with wide-ranging benefits. But how do we forgive, exactly?

We begin by acknowledging — right off the bat — how difficult it can be to forgive someone who has wounded us deeply.

See also: 7 Ways to Cultivate Compassion

"We talk about forgiveness as if it were one thing, but we should really talk about different types of forgiveness," says Helen Whitney, a filmmaker whose most recent documentary is Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate. "There are as many ways to forgive as there are people needing to be forgiven."

Still, here are seven simple things to remember when you really do want to let bygones be bygones.

Take your time. Forgiveness does not require a stopwatch. The part of us that requires amends generally refuses to be rushed. Healing has its own timetable, which sometimes can require a lifetime. There are times when forgiveness can be bad for your health, particularly if you force the process, Whitney says. This serves to lay an insincere foundation in relationships, undermining future trust.

Tell the truth. Authenticity is everything when it comes to forgiveness. Nothing but whole truth (so help you God) is potent enough to unlock serious grudges. This usually requires a leap of faith (we so rarely tell the whole truth), and the willingness to lose the relationship if the truth is too much for your unforgiven party to hear. You can't be dishonest and move forward emotionally at the same time.

Own your part. Telling the truth means taking responsibility for your part in the bad way things went down. It's all too tempting for the injured party to play the victim (how else could we manage to be so self righteous?). But the truth cuts both ways and you need to get real about your behavior. Are you guilty of miscommunication? Did you misrepresent your needs or desires? Are you wearing your offense like a crown of thorns, acting high or mighty?

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