Thanksgiving has its origins after the Pilgrim’s first harvest in the New World. As the story goes, in 1631 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans celebrated the harvest over a period of 3 days. The date and purpose for celebrating have changed over the centuries and the tradition has gone in and out of popularity. It wasn’t actually until the middle of the American Civil War in 1863 that President Lincoln established it as a national holiday to be celebrated the last Thursday in November each year.
While the celebration might vary from household to household, the major underlying theme remains the same. The purpose is to gather with family and friends and give thanks or take time to appreciate all we have and cherish. It’s a time to reflect on all the positive things we have in our life and resolve conflicts in time for the new year. As Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
As we go through life, it’s inevitable that we will be treated badly or hurt at some point. The feelings are painful and the anger, depression and frustration it causes are often extremely debilitating. Ongoing conflict can make people feel exhausted, stressed, and anxious. The bitterness often keeps us so wrapped up in the past that it prevents us from moving forward resulting in alienation and broken relationships. While it’s understandable to be angry with a person or situation, you will notice that successful and well-balanced people usually don’t hold on to grudges for very long.
While your hurt might feel like it will last forever, numerous studies show the healing power that forgiveness can bring. It’s worth it for your overall health and well-being although it is understandably very difficult. Sometimes, people don’t want to forgive because they feel like you’ve somehow lost the battle or that their feelings were overlooked. However, forgiveness does not mean that you need to forget the incident, begin trusting the person, condone the actions or even that you have to be best friends again. Instead, you have the power over how your forgiveness will look. You can forgive them and let go of the burden but move away from a relationship with them, or agree to disagree and move on. Or, you can forgive them without accepting their behavior.
The benefits of forgiveness greatly away the cost of the anger. It can give you a sense of peace and psychological freedom. Physically, you might regain a healthier blood pressure and heart rate, reduce your alcohol or drug use and leave you feeling happier and less burdened.
So how to accomplish this? Start by recognizing that it will take a change in your attitude to heal. Look for ways to be more empathetic about what was going on in the other person’s life when they hurt you. It goes back to the theory behind Thanksgiving. Be more mindful and focus on gratitude and kindness rather than contempt and aggression. You will end up feeling in control and emotionally stronger than ever before.