You've probably been taught that forgiving someone who causes you pain is a good thing, while holding a grudge against the person is a bad thing. But like so many other worthy aspirations, it's easier said than done. Consider this, however: Holding a grudge doesn't only stand in the way of your overall happiness, it can also threaten your good health.
When we hold a grudge against other people, we harbor feelings of resentment, hostility and anger. These emotions are troubling because a study conducted by the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Cardiovascular Institute in 2008 lists them as risk factors for heart attacks [source: Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine].
Focusing on negative feelings also takes up time and energy that could be spent on something else. Instead of plotting revenge against someone, you could be doing something more worthwhile -- or just having fun.
Doctor, writer and philosopher Deepak Chopra suggests that learning to forgive is a process. It begins with realizing that you are in charge of your own emotions. You have no control over what anybody else does, but you can choose how to react. Then, you focus on your emotions and exactly how you felt when that person wronged you. You may have a mix of emotions -- go ahead and name them. Try to examine the situation from the other person's point of view, or as an impartial observer. Next, discuss your feelings with someone else. It could be the person you're trying to forgive, or just a trusted friend. Consider writing about how the incident made you feel. Some people choose to symbolically "get rid" of their feelings by writing them down and then burning the paper. Chopra suggests that you end by celebrating your new-found freedom in some way, such as hanging out with friends.
Although "forgive" is often followed by "forget," there's a difference between dwelling on the incident and forgetting it. Remembering is an act of self-preservation, and perhaps it can help you avoid being in the situation in the future. You can forgive without forgetting. It's not necessary to confront or otherwise let the person know that you have forgiven them, unless you really want to. Ultimately, learning to forgive is about forgiving yourself for holding on to the negative emotions.