Forgiveness – Why You Should Practice It

Forgiveness – Why You Should Practice It

April 8, 2019 0 By Anthony Ekanem

Forgiveness is a subject that many of us have completely either downplayed or forgotten entirely. Somehow, we really don’t know how to deal with it. Some people are fortunate to have learnt to forgive early in life, but for most people, being unable to forgive leaves a wound that re-opens every time an incident happens in their lives that triggers something similar to what caused the wound in the first place.

Forgiveness has a bad taste for most people.  They associate it with being weak. But unknown to such people, forgiveness is actually a strength.  Forgiveness is an act of maturity, bravery and intelligence; and most importantly, it is a direct connection to your heart. In essence, it is love itself.

What is Forgiveness?

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. 

Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

As a psychological concept and virtue, the benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead).

In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.

Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for many varying modern day traditions and practices of forgiveness. Some religious doctrines or philosophies place greater emphasis on the need for humans to find some sort of divine forgiveness for their own shortcomings, others place greater emphasis on the need for humans to practice forgiveness of one another, yet others make little or no distinction between human and divine forgiveness.

Although there is currently no consensus for a psychological definition of forgiveness in the research literature, agreement has emerged that forgiveness is a process and a number of models describing the process of forgiveness have been published, including one from a radical behavioral perspective.

A longitudinal study showed that people who were generally more neurotic, angry and hostile in life were less likely to forgive another person even after a long time had passed. Specifically, these people were more likely to still avoid their transgressor and want to enact revenge upon them two and a half years after the transgression.

Benefits of Forgiveness

Studies have shown that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. The first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems.  Another study at the University of Wisconsin found that the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses. The less forgiving people reported a greater number of health problems.

The research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, and author of the book “Learning to Forgive” presented evidence that forgiveness can be learned based on research projects into the effects of forgiveness, giving empirical validity to the concept that forgiveness is not only powerful, but also excellent for your health.

In three separate studies, including one with Catholics and Protestants from Northern Ireland whose family members were murdered in the political violence, he found that people who are taught how to forgive become less angry, feel less hurt, are more optimistic, become more forgiving in a variety of situations, and become more compassionate and self-confident. His studies show a reduction in experience of stress, physical manifestations of stress, and an increase in vitality.

The Religious Aspect of Forgiveness

In Christianity, Jesus spoke of the importance of Christians forgiving or showing mercy towards others. Jesus used the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) to say that we should forgive without limits. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the best known parable about forgiveness and refers to God’s forgiveness for His people.

The 18th century poet Alexander Pope coined perhaps the most famous quote ever written regarding forgiveness when he wrote: “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Since we have all mastered the human tendency to err, this Audio Book focuses on the far more elusive divine art of forgiving. Although everyone is familiar with the concept of forgiveness, it can be extremely difficult in actual practice. Very few will learn how to overcome the obstacles that prevent genuine forgiveness and move on to a place of true happiness and peace.

If you listen to the above audio book with an open mind and a willing heart, you will come away with the tools that you need to see through the deception of bitterness and ego, and come to the point where you can genuinely forgive those who have hurt you. Once you are able to forgive, you are able to release the pain and hurt that can cling to you.

Forgiveness starts with the act of forgiving or pardoning. Forgiving is not confined to one single act in as much as it is the cessation of ongoing negative patterns, such as being angry or resentful. Anger, resentment, and bitterness are powerful emotions that can seize control of a person with strongly negative effects on your attitude, relationships, and even your physical well-being.

Often, these negative feelings overwhelm us. It can feel as if we are drowning in our own negativity. Bitterness and resentment feed upon themselves, creating an ever widening circle of despair.

The good news is that there is a way out. You can break free of these negative emotions. When we forgive, we release the anger and give ourselves permission to be happy.  Happiness is our natural state of being. When we are at harmony with our surroundings and ourselves, we will naturally tend toward happiness. While external circumstances may cause a temporary interruption of our happiness, our reaction to the circumstances has far more control over our happiness in the long run. We can’t control the actions of other people. If we are honest in our assessment, we have to acknowledge that people are often mean, rude, thoughtless, and self-absorbed.

Given that we have to live among these thoughtless and mean creatures, it is a virtual certainty that we are going to be injured by their actions at some point. (Just as certain that we, being of the same type of self-absorbed creatures are going to injure others on occasion.) The surest road to overcoming circumstance and moving back to our intended state of happiness is through forgiveness.

People sometimes take their anger and resentment to the grave. What a waste of the wonderful life such persons could have had if they’d only known how to forgive! The grave is pretty final in many ways, both to the deceased and to the living. Friends and relatives that are left behind no longer have the chance to resolve their issues in person with the person who passed away.

Why not practice forgiveness while alive? Why not bestow that particular kind of grace on those who need it the most – while they are still alive and hoping for your forgiveness?