The Importance of Forgiveness

What actually constitutes forgiveness and how does it really help us?  In addition to its spiritual and emotional aspects, studies have shown that there are a number of important physical benefits forgiveness affords us.  “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

Most of us struggle with forgiving a person that has offended us because we feel that by doing so, we are absolving them of any responsibility for their actions.  In reality, forgiveness has nothing to do with absolution of another.  Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not for the offending person.  “It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not,” Dr. Swartz says.  “As you release the anger, resentment and hostility, you begin to feel empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.”

Whatever level of intensity your conflict may have been, from a brief quarrel with your spouse to a major dispute with a family member that’s lasted years, adopting this perspective of the act of forgiving has tremendous healing powers both emotionally and physically.  Conversely, unresolved conflict could cause you serious physical issues, ultimately.

Dr. Swartz reminds us forgiveness is a choice and offers several steps you can take to practice forgiveness throughout your life:

·Reflect and remember.  Think about the event, how you reacted, how you felt and how 

 the anger and hurt have affected you since that time.

·Empathize with the other person.  Consider any circumstances in his/her past that would

 have led him/her to lash out at this point in time.

·Forgive genuinely.  One study found that people whose forgiveness came in part from

 understanding that no one is perfect were able to resume a normal relationship with the

 other person, even if that person never apologized. Those who only forgave in an effort

 to salvage the relationship wound up with a worse relationship.

·Let go of expectations.  If you don’t expect an apology and you don’t get one, you won’t

 be disappointed.

·Decide to forgive.  Once you make that choice, seal it with an action.  If you don’t feel

 you can talk to the person who wronged you, write about your forgiveness in a journal or

 even talk about it to someone else in your life that you trust.

·Forgive yourself.  The act of forgiving includes forgiving yourself.

The 12 Habits of Highly Healthy People

The 12 Habits of Highly Healthy People

This group is an adjunct to our "12 Habits" program for MyAHE members. Although this group is open to all, only MyAHE members are eligible to utilize our 24alife personalized health app.

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