The January issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource summarizes a substantial body of research indicating that forgiveness may be good for your health.
Holding a grudge appears to affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems (1, 2). In one study, people who focused on a personal grudge had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension and feelings of being less in control. When asked to imagine forgiving the person who had hurt them, the participants said they felt more positive and relaxed and thus, the changes dissipated. Other studies have shown that forgiveness has positive effects on psychological health, too.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning or excusing whatever happened. It is instead a matter of acknowledging hurt and then letting it go, along with the burden of anger and resentment.
There is no single approach to learning how to forgive. Talking with a friend, therapist or adviser (spiritual or otherwise) may be helpful during the process, to sort through feelings and stay on track. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource recommends four steps that are included in most approaches to learning forgiveness.
-- Acknowledge the pain and anger felt as a result of someone else's actions. For forgiveness to occur, the situation needs to be looked at honestly.
-- Recognize that healing requires change.
-- Find a new way to think about the person who caused the pain. What was happening in that person's life when the hurt occurred? Sometimes, the motivation or causes for the incident have little to do with those most affected. For some people, this step includes saying, "I forgive you."
-- Begin to experience the emotional relief that comes with forgiveness. It may include increased compassion for others who have experienced similar hurt.
“When we forgive, we free ourselves from the bitter ties that bind us to the one who hurt us.”
Claire Frazier-Yzaguirre (American Therapist and Christian Minister)
“Fear binds the world. Forgiveness sets it free.”
--A Course in Miracles (Book of Spiritual Principles Scribed by Dr. Helen Schucman between 1965 and 1975, and First Published in 1976)
“Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because when someone forgives you - out of love - he takes on the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice.”
--Dag Hammarskjöld (Swedish Statesman, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953-1961, and, in 1961, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1905-1961)
“Here is a mental treatment guaranteed to cure every ill to which flesh is heir: sit for half an hour every night and mentally forgive everyone against whom you have any ill will or antipathy.”
--Charles Fillmore (American Co-founder of Unity School of Christianity, 1854-1948)
“Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.”
--Hannah Arendt (German-born American Political Philosopher, 1906-1975)
“Without forgiveness life is governed... by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.”
--Roberto Assagioli (Italian Psychiatrist, Theosophist and Founder of Psychosynthesis, 1888-1974)
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
--Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Nationalist and World Teacher, 1869-1948)
“Today I forgive all those who have ever offended me. I give my love to all thirsty hearts, both to those who love me and to those who do not love me.”
--Paramahansa Yogananda (Indian Spiritual Teacher and, in 1920, Founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship, 1893-1952)
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
--The Bible (Luke 6:37)