When we consider the act of forgiveness, we tend to think of it in the context of doing something for someone else. We feel magnanimous. We feel like we’re bestowing a gift. And in a way we are—when we truly forgive someone, we’re removing a burden. But the person who benefits most from forgiveness isn’t necessarily the one who is being forgiven. It is we, the bestowers of forgiveness, who need the act to happen so that we can feel whole and grounded again.

For forgiveness to be necessary, we must first feel we have been wronged in some way. The person who wronged us may or may not care about what they’ve done. They may have been malicious, or they may have had the most innocent of intentions. They may not even be aware that anything happened. But we are aware, and we carry negativity around with us—pain, sadness, resentment, or anger—until we forgive.

These destructive emotions don’t affect the person who offended. This person continues blithely with his or her life, completely unaffected…but we suffer. We carry our resentment around, hugging it to us, and it harms no one but ourselves.

When we forgive, we release all the negativity. We remove a burden from ourselves, heal ourselves of a spiritual sickness. Resentment, anger, sadness, pain—these all take a psychological and spiritual toll. They force us to live in chronic low-level stress. They can make us ill, both spiritually and physically. When we forgive, we lay down that burden, so we can stretch and stand tall again, unencumbered by its weight.

Forgiveness is good for the soul.