The Power of Forgiveness

Holding onto grudges and past hurts doesn’t do anyone any good. In fact, Judith Orloff M.D. writes, “Forgiveness refers to the actor not the act. Not to the offense but the woundedness of the offender.” The Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life author suggests not putting yourself in the line of fire with negative people. Instead, she suggests forgiving “the conscious or unconscious suffering that motivates people.”

Physical Benefits Attributed to Forgiveness

Aside from psychological benefits, forgiving someone has notable physical benefits, too. For example, people who forgive have stronger hearts. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that when the 71 people studied stopped thinking about something that irked them, their cardiovascular and nervous systems functioned better and the muscles in their faces softened. Just thinking about forgiveness improves a person’s health.

Other ways the body benefits from forgiveness includes:

  • A healthier immune system. A study found that when participants dwelled in negative feelings such as anger, frustration, and resentment, they had lower levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that wards off colds and the flu.
  • Fewer headaches. Students that took a class in forgiveness saw noticeable benefits. 27% reported having fewer headaches less frequently.
  • Relief from back pain. Duke University Medical Center conducted a small study. They wanted to see how men and women with chronic lower backaches responded to practicing a Buddhist loving-kindness meditation. For eight weeks, the participants reported a decrease in pain. The men and women who continued meditating reported greater amounts of relief.

The ability to forgive one’s self and others is a valuable skill worth cultivating. It’s about developing a greater sense of compassion and intolerance of suffering. It’s about coming to peace with what happened and no longer attaching a negative feeling to a person or event that took place in the past.

Filed under: Forgiveness

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