The New Science of Forgiveness

Medically reviewed by Dr. Jen Taylor
Medically reviewed by Dr. Jen Taylor on July 9, 2020
Naturopathic Doctor
Updated on July 10th, 2020
Benefits of Forgiveness

As we enter the second half of 2020, we can reflect on how we handled the COVID-19 crisis stresses on ourselves, our relationships, and our community. Not surprisingly, many of us have been carrying some form of hurt, disappointment, or frustration from the world’s unpredictable nature and the amount of change occurring over the past six months. 

For many of us, the act of forgiveness can offer us a fresh start in addition to health benefits, should harm have occurred during these turbulent times.

The act of forgiveness is a major facet in many religions. Generally, it means that the forgiver makes the conscious decision to let go of debt, harm, or wrong done to them by another individual.  Forgiveness allows us to have a starting point to heal and move forward in our lives while allowing us to handle adversity, injustice, and negativity in a healthy manner. 

In the process of forgiving, we can develop strength and wisdom.  

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you will not feel pain, sorrow, or regret.  Depending on the offense, healing will likely take time before the negative emotion fades from the wrong. Forgiveness also does not necessarily mean that you excuse what someone has done to you or forget the harm that has occurred. 

The past is a reality that cannot be denied. Forgiveness means that you have made the decision not to pursue a retaliation or a debt, and you have forgiven what that person owes you. You have essentially “let it go” and moved on from the wrong.  In doing so, you have a starting place to move forward without holding onto a negative event, emotion, or injustice.   

[Also Read: How to Heal a Broken Heart ]

Likewise, it is also important to remember that we may be the one in need of forgiveness for something that we have done to another.  If something done you truly regret or feel sorry for, you might want to consider asking for forgiveness.  However, another person cannot be forced into forgiving, even if they are given a genuine apology.  

Forgiveness Strengthens Social Relationships

The act of forgiveness can strengthen our social relationships and overall health and wellness.  By letting go of past transgressions, we can move on from a negative experience that has engaged our body’s stress response, which can keep us stuck in a state of fight or flight. 

By being able to move forward and embrace the good that life can provide, we can be free to engage in our daily activities and relationships without the harmful effects of holding a prolonged grudge.  Studies have found that people who can forgive can lower their risk of heart attacks (1), improve sleep, decrease blood pressure, lessen pain, and mitigate depression, anxiety, and stress.   

If you are looking to seek guidance and understanding of forgiveness, there are many practices and services available to you.  These range from religious rites to books, media, and support groups.  The key is to find an approach that you are comfortable with and one that works for you.

About The Author:

Jen TaylorDr. Jen Taylor is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor from Rochester, New York. Her interest in health and wellness stemmed from her experiences as a youth and college athlete.

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