New research shows that if you hang on to resentment or forgive in a conditional way, you don’t live as long as people who are able to unconditionally forgive. So does that mean we have to turn the other cheek or agree with the other person? Absolutely not! Lets look at what forgiveness is and the cost of not forgiving.
What is forgiveness? – A great explanation comes from Wikkipedia – ‘Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.’
Wikkipedia goes on to say what Forgiveness isn’t – and for anyone struggling to forgive this is so important to take on board. Forgiveness isn’t accepting what the other person did was ok. Forgiveness is very different from condoning a wrongful action.
Forgiveness raises anxiety, creates stress and damages your heart A lack of forgiveness is usually associated with feelings such as resentment hostility and anger. The resulting stress hormones have wide, devastating physical consequences. The most predominant of which is cardiac dysfunction. Yes, anger can have a dangerous effect on your heart.
In a study by Charlotte VanOyen Witvliet at Hope College, participants were asked to think about someone who had hurt, mistreated, or offended them. While they thought about this person and his or her past offense, Witvliet monitored their blood pressure, heart rate, facial muscle tension, and sweat gland activity. Sure enough, when people recalled a grudge, their physical arousal soared. And the reverse happens when a person thinks about forgiveness.
Forgiveness is about making a conscious choice to preserve your health – The scientist Ironson, found that anger is a bigger predictor of heart disease than smoking. So it is no surprise that finding a way to forgive and relax about past events has become introduced to patients who have suffered a heart attack. As this serves to protect your heart and encourage long term healing.
Sometimes the ‘act’ that needs forgiving is created because of how you interpret an event. There are obvious examples where the act is clear cut wrong but sometimes someone may do something that is just taken the wrong way. This can leave you with simmering angry feelings that are based on your perception and not how things really were.
You will find that when you start to question your interpretation of events and loosen up negative beliefs about why someone did something, a sense of calm replaces a sense of injustice or resentment.
For instance if your colleague got a promotion that you felt you should have had, you might be cross with your boss and conclude that he favours your colleague above you. Take a moment and think through as many different other reasons why your boss may have chosen your colleague.
Reactions are often automatic and based on outdated beliefs systems – so thinking around your automatic emotional reaction can be a big step to feeling better about any situation that is bothering you.
Closure might have to be an inside job – You might not be able to get a conversation to understand the reasons for why another person did what they did or have the opportunity to tell them how dreadful the consequences have been. But freedom is gained from pain when you consciously choose which direction your thoughts and following emotions are going to go.
The greater the unconditional forgiveness – the greater the health benefit – Forgiving with conditions attached is almost as bad as not forgiving at all – because the body still detects there are emotions that are not resolved. This finding shocked researchers, but from a psychological perspective the damaging emotions are still locked in place. The conditions act as an anchor to keeping the bad feelings current in the mind of the person who is only partially forgiving. Their resentment and watchfulness over how the other person will act in the future will cause rumination and subsequent anxiety.
Tomorrow you will find out how you can take steps towards forgiveness and release the hurt and damage resentment and anger cause.