Harsh, painful experience has taught me that forgiveness is essential to my spiritual and mental well-being. As the AA Big Book so aptly states, “Resentment is the number one offender.”

Holding onto a grudge against someone else is spiritually corrosive. It’s like waking up every morning and dousing my soul in battery acid in a delusional attempt to “punish” the person who harmed me. The hatred burns and scalds, leaving excruciating wounds that continue to be exacerbated and worsened.

My mind keeps replaying the time or times the person harmed me, stoking the fires of pain and shame. Often I beat up on myself for not standing up to the person more strongly, whipping myself furiously and fueling fantasies of a “do-over,” in which I exact my revenge. Or envisioning scenarios in which cosmic justice leaves the offender writhing in excruciating pain.

To get and remain mentally and spiritually healthy, and in the case of an Alcoholic/addict like me, to avoid turning to drinking or acting out to numb the self-inflicted pain of hating another person, I have learned to pray for that person every day until the deep-seated feelings of resentment dissipate and melt away.

Forgiveness was a hard pill to swallow for this raging untreated Alcoholic with Bipolar Disorder. But the further I travelled down a spiritual path, the more I realized that, counter-intuitively, forgiveness is not for the offender. It’s for the one who’s been harmed.

And forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. In some cases the offender was, and remains, toxic. There is nothing compelling you to rebuild a relationship or even interact with that person again.

The only thing that matters is that you have purged the poisons of hatred and resentment from your heart.

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