Forgive For (Your Own) Good
What is forgiveness and why should we forgive those who have harmed us? The healthy benefits of forgiving and the painful price of holding resentmentsWhat is forgiveness and what does it mean to forgive others? Exactly what are the benefits of forgiveness and why should we choose to forgive those who have harmed us? My interest in the subject led to my becoming a certified forgiveness trainer in 2010. What I have learned is sometimes surprising. Let’s start with a definition of forgiveness. I like the Mayo Clinic’s definition which follows:
“Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentments and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of you life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead you to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.” (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, MH0031, Nov. 23, 2011).There is a lot research on the benefits of forgiveness on the forgiver. Much of it has come out of Stanford University’s Forgiveness Project co-founded and directed by Dr. Fred Luskin. In his ground breaking book, Forgive For Good: A proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (Harper Collins, 2002) Dr. Luskin enumerates many of the positive benefits of forgiveness as well as some of the harms caused by not forgiving others. In brief, here are some of scientifically proven physical benefits of forgiving on the forgiver: -Less stress due to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
-Lower blood pressure.
-Improved function of the immune system.
-Lower risk of alcohol and drug abuse.
-Fewer symptoms of depression
-Greater psychological well-being.
-More effectiveness in Therapy
-Reconciliation with spouse, family or others
-Greater feelings of spiritual connectedness
*Next month I will address some strategies for actually forgiving others.