Everyone at one point or another encounters conflict within a meaningful relationship. Sometimes it is a one time scuffle and other times it can be a rehashing of an issue that just can’t seem to be resolved. Intense conflicts often happen in the context of romantic, platonic and familial relationships; and the closer a relationship is the more uncomfortable the attempt to repair can be. It seems counterintuitive right? Most people think the longer you’ve known someone the easier it is to talk to them, but this is not always the case. In fact it is easier to acknowledge someone has hurt our feelings or that maybe boundaries are needed when the relationship is not so deeply entrenched since the stakes are lower and we perceive there to be less to lose.

It is important to keep in mind that forgiveness does not always feel natural and often is not at the front of mind when feelings of anger come up, rather it is an actual. Additionally, there are many situational factors to be weighed when deciding to forgive or let go but here are a few questions for reflection and to give a different perspective about what holding onto anger does for your mental health.

Reflecting on Anger and Past Bitterness
● The Root: Why can’t you let go?
○ One of the first things to address about long-held anger is your motivation for carrying it. Sometimes the answer to this can be a number of different things, from not having a solid resolution to feeling fundamentally betrayed or misunderstood. Whatever the case may be, effective communication, mutual respect and finding common ground are essential on the path to reconciliation.

● Staying Stuck: Ruminating and Dwelling
○ In order to reach a point of dissolution of bitterness and anger, ruminating over details of the conflict may actually be hindering you from moving on. Sometimes people do or say things for no apparent reason and or act in ways that go against our preconceived understanding of them, but dwelling on mistakes only gives us an illusory sense of control.

● Self-Compassion: Anger becoming a part of identity
○ An aspect of anger worth examining is how ingrained it has become into your identity. If anger has become comfortable for you it could be time to question if it is stopping you from facing some harder feelings lying beneath it. When we feel betrayed, disrespected or angry about a person or situation it can sometimes be easier to hold a grudge rather than making ourselves uncomfortable by having hard conversations, even if they could lead to reconciliation.

Assessing How to Move Forward
● Growth and Learning
○ Have you evolved past the relationship? It is important to examine if the conflict or situation went against your fundamental values and has become something or someone you no longer have space for. Relationships ebb and flow naturally, but sometimes staying in a partnership or relationship that no longer aligns with you can cause a lot of emotional distress. Of course every conflict is different and with that some prompt more severe boundaries than others.

● Setting Boundaries
○ When approaching the topic of forgiveness it is important to also take the opportunity to set boundaries that may have been lacking. Through doing this it may help prevent a repeat of an issue, or at least create a space to bring up what you are and are not comfortable with. Boundaries should give a sense of safety and empowerment to both parties, since they create a clear understanding of what the limits of certain behaviors or actions are within the relationship.

● Self-Compassion
○ While no one likes to feel angry or bitter, especially towards a loved one, a way to move forward productively is through taking it as a learning experience. This is not to say that every conflict can be learned from, sometimes things are too severe to extrapolate from. However, making sure to check-in with yourself and your needs is an act of self care anyone could benefit from in a period of anger or frustration.

Forgiveness is a profound act of liberation, releasing us from the weight of resentment and anger. By letting go of grudges and embracing forgiveness, we free ourselves to experience inner peace and genuine healing. Ultimately, forgiveness empowers us to cultivate healthy relationships, foster personal growth, and live more authentically fulfilling lives.


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