By Kelly Nunnerley
In the 1995 book “An Ethic for Enemies” forgiveness is defined as an “act that joins moral truth, forbearance, empathy and commitment to repair a fractured human relation. A more spiritual illustration would summarise forgiveness as the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally and accept responsibility for how you feel. Forgiveness is the experience of serenity in the present moment. It does not change the past, but can influence the present. Forgiveness means that even though you are wounded you choose to hurt and suffer less.
Forgiveness means you become a part of the solution. It is the understanding that hurt is a normal part of life. Forgiveness is letting go and building the confidence necessary to experience healthy and positive growth.
Forgiveness is a declaration that you choose not to remain locked in the past as a victim of circumstances perpetuating negative life patterns through blame and anger. To forgive is to take control of your life rather than to remain a victim. In her book “The Unburdened Heart: 5 keys to forgiveness and freedom” Mariah Burton Nelson summarises forgiveness as:
- Awareness—remember who hurt you and how
- Validation—talk to a sympathetic listener
- Compassion—strive to see the offender’s humanity
- Humility—reflect on your own faults and failings
- Self-forgiveness—open your heart to yourself Clinical studies have shown that forgiveness can actually improve your quality of life.
Anger and resentment towards people can be destructive to the person experiencing the negative emotions, but forgiveness lessens the burden, more so than denial or expressing the frustration. These emotions can make you vulnerable to chronic anxiety, serious depression, general distrust, poor self-esteem, and a pervading sense of hopelessness. In turn this can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that accelerate the heart rate, shut down the immune system, and encourage blood clotting, potentially leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Hormonal changes can also contribute towards high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a host of other chronic illnesses. Forgiveness on the other hand, short-circuits that process entirely whilst boosting self-esteem and feelings of hope as it lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It can also help you sleep better. Earlier research on forgiveness and measures of health showed that there are also psychological benefits to forgiveness.
People who forgive more readily are less likely to be depressed and anxious, and more likely to be happy. These physical and psychological qualities could all be key in predicting a longer life. The way you respond when you feel wronged or when you seek self forgiveness has a variety of health boosting effects. If you want to benefit from the life-extending benefits of forgiveness, don’t wait for others to apologise or promise that they will change. Research would suggest you begin the process within your own mind, and you’ll be happier, and live longer. Celebration of the joy found in true forgiveness is Worldwide. International Forgiveness Day was created by the World Forgiveness Alliance, a non-denominational, educational foundation and is celebrated on the first Sunday in August.
According to their website “International Forgiveness Day is dedicated to evoking the healing power of forgiveness worldwide”. Key aims include the establishment of an International Forgiveness Day in every village and hamlet across the world by the year 2025.
“If everyone were to
follow the ‘eye for an
eye’ principle of justice,
said Gandhi, the whole
World would go blind.”