Time magazine published an article recently on the benefits of forgiveness. It stated that according to research, forgiving yourself and other people significantly reduces the chance of mental illness.
It was an enlightening article. But what I found to be conspicuously missing from it was the “how.” How do you actually forgive a person that has hurt you badly? How does one stop being depressed? Most people I know don’t want to be trapped by unforgiveness, depression, frustration, unhappiness, and the like. They want to be free from the grip of negative emotions and to live happy and fulfilled lives. Yet the World Health Organisation says that approximately 350 million people suffer from some form of depression. That’s a lot of people.
There was a time, years ago, when I was dominated by negative emotions of guilt and dissatisfaction. Each morning as soon as my eyes popped open, almost automatically thoughts of my “failings” would hit me, quickly followed by a wave of disappointment, guilt and depression that left me deflated and just blah. I remember on one particular occasion, I was depressed for the whole day because I’d ruined my diet the night before by eating a whole pack of Easter eggs. Can you imagine that! I gave that example to show you how the depression was triggered and fed by the smallest, most mundane things. I was in a hellhole and I had no idea how to get out. Prayer became a struggle and nothing at all seemed to make me happy for more than a few minutes at a time.
Then God gave me what I like to call an “imaginary slap.” 😂😂 In a nutshell, he said:
Stop acting helpless because you are not. This is not beyond your control. You are stuck in this rut because of one deadly habit – you are used to focusing entirely on the bad and have stopped being thankful for the good. Change the way you think and your feelings will follow without fail.
Then he told me to create a “Gratitude List.” That is, to write down as many blessings I could think of right from my childhood to the present time, everything Christ has done for me, and to thank him for them first thing in the morning, every day.
It wasn’t easy to start with. Every time I thanked God for something and felt joy slowly welling up, five different things would pop up to remind me of why I should be sad. My mind was so used to thinking negatively. But I stuck with it, and gradually felt the grip of those negative feelings loosen and slide away as they were firmly replaced with genuine joy and appreciation for life. I got so happy and free that at one point I began to wonder if people would think I was rather uncouth because I laughed so much. (But then again, who cares? Duh!)
Do you find that you are easily upset/frustrated with your spouse, child, job, colleagues, friends, etc., or you are depressed because you believe nothing is going right for you? Or have you vowed that you will never forgive someone that caused you pain? Then I encourage you to do what I did. Make your own Gratitude List. Think deeply about the benefits this person/thing has directly contributed to your life. (No, don’t say “nothing!” That’s just the pain speaking 😀) Write them down and begin to thank God for them every day. This simple act of faith is guaranteed to work for unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, guilt and every other emotional hellhole because you cannot genuinely thank God for someone or something and harbour negative feelings towards them at the same time.
So, get “thanking” today. I’ve even created a template to help you get started. Download it here. I have created it in Word so that you can alter it as you wish. Now there are no more excuses. 😀
I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.