'Opa!' Why Forgiveness is Good for Your Health

07/08/2011 12:54 am ET | Updated Sep 07, 2011

One evening in Greece, over mezedes (appetizers) and, of course, red wine, we got into a conversation with several friends about the meaning of forgiveness and its effect on our attitude toward life (the "A" in The OPA! Way), lifestyle and overall state of well-being. After much-spirited conversation, we concluded that:

  • Getting to forgiveness is one of the most difficult and challenging things that we can do to go beyond ourselves when we are so fixated on our problems, our needs and our demands.
  • Getting to forgiveness is much easier said than done.
  • When we hold onto our resentment, hurt and anger, we are inside ourselves with self pity. It becomes a veil through which we see ourselves and others; it becomes something we need to feed, keep alive and justify. If we don't, we think we allow the other person or people to be "right" in their unjust treatment of us.
  • Forgiveness means letting go of our own suffering. It actually has a lot more to do with our own well-being than that of the other person or persons we forgive.

Let's face it: when things are spinning out of control -- and especially out of our control -- it's at least comforting and cathartic, even if it doesn't really resolve anything, to be able to point the blame on others for our situation. When we feel like, think like, and act like life just happens to us, it becomes especially difficult to forgive those who have trespassed against us. However, when we search out and discover the authentic meaning of our existence and our experiences, we discover that life doesn't happen to us. We happen to life; and we make it meaningful.

Against this backdrop, forgiveness can be one of the most powerful things we do. Importantly, it doesn't equate to forgetting, diminishing or simply accepting a misdeed and going back to the same situation that caused the issue in the first place. It has much more to do with freeing ourselves and moving on. Our capacity to forgive actually provides a pathway to true freedom and self-empowerment that can be a platform for healing. Embracing all of life with enthusiasm by exercising the freedom to choose one's attitude -- a core principle of The OPA! Way and the search for meaning -- allows the human spirit to work its wonders, especially during difficult, challenging times. Forgiveness, in this connection, allows us to embrace the fullness of life -- the "full catastrophe" of living -- as Zorba the Greek would say, and move on.

Forgive others and free yourself from further captivity by the anger and misgivings toward others. By giving to others and going beyond ourselves, we make our own lives richer. Forgiveness, and the shift in attitude that comes with it, is actually good for our own bodies, our health (mental, physical and spiritual) and our overall well-being. OPA!

Dr. Alex Pattakos and his partner, Dr. Elaine Dundon, are the co-founders of The OPA! Way® lifestyle of "Living Your Inner Greece!" which means living all of life to the fullest with enthusiasm and meaning. You can find out more about Dr. Pattakos, author of the international best-selling book "Prisoners of Our Thoughts," and Dr. Dundon, author of the international best-selling book, "The Seeds of Innovation," in their full bio.

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