By Brandy Browne
Forgiveness…it’s such a loaded word, right? What does it even mean, and why is it important? Mayo Clinic (2020) states, “Forgiveness means different things to different people. Generally, however, it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge” (retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692). Many confuse forgiving someone with excusing their actions or reconciling/repairing the relationship. True forgiveness, though, centers around letting go of grudges in order to be fully at peace and move forward with your life. It does not mean allowing someone who is a toxic presence in your life to remain in your life.
Why is forgiving someone beneficial for your health? Well, physical benefits are immense…forgiving those who have hurt you has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve your heart health, improve symptoms of depression and mental health in general, and even improve your immunity towards infectious diseases and health conditions. Mentally, engaging in forgiveness can improve the quality of your relationships by reducing the anger and bitterness that holding onto a grudge brings into your other existing relationships. It also reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, which will improve quality of relationships as well.
Forgiving those who have hurt us enable us to rid ourselves of the role of victim by releasing the power that the offending person has over us. Identifying their action that caused pain and the specific emotions/behavior that said behavior caused, then making a conscious choice to rid ourselves of the negative energy promotes us to a higher level of mentality and morality than we can possibly attain when we are holding on to a grudge.
What happens if we cannot forgive someone who has hurt us? It may be especially helpful to practice empathy…put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would you have handled the situation differently? Sometimes, you may find you have a new appreciation for how easy it is to make mistakes. Also, reflect on times you have made mistakes and hurt others. Sometimes, a little self reflection is helpful in reminding us to give the same grace we want to receive. No one is perfect. Some offenses may warrant not reconciling with the offending party, but oftentimes, one may have just been having a bad day or a lapse in judgement.
If you want to read more about the benefits of practicing forgiveness, try the following texts:
- Bible Obviously, if your faith if relatively strong, you know the there is alot to say in the Bible about the practice of forgiveness.
- The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness: Discover How To Escape Your Prison of Pain and Unlock a Life of Freedom by by Kris Vallatton
- The Power of Forgiveness by Emily Hook
- The Self Care Prescription: Powerful Solutions to Manage Stress, Reduce Anxiety, & Increase Wellbeing by Robyn Gobin
- Deep Kindness: A Revolutionary Guide for the Way We Think, Talk, and Act in Kindness by Houston Kraft
The act of forgiving comes easily to many children, but having conversations about forgiveness can be really hard! Check out these resources to start the conversation with your children…
- Punk the Skunk Learns to Say Sorry: A Picture Book About Empathy, Forgiveness, and Saying You’re Sorry by Misty Black and Ann Rankovic
- Potato Pants by Laurie Keller
- I am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde
- The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson & Maria Dismondy
- When I Lose My Temper: Children’s Book about Anger Management & Emotions by Michael Gordon
The ability to forgive those who have wronged you unlocks a power in your life where you will no longer be a victim, allowing the actions of others to control you and your mental health. Teaching our children to be empathetic and forgiving will enable them to avoid having that power taken from them in the first place.
Mayo Clinic. (2020). Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692