5 Shocking Health Benefits Of Forgiveness

It's well known, forgiving another person can be an extremely tough pill to swallow.  Let's be real for a moment, it feels completely unnatural to offer forgiveness after a stranger cuts us off in traffic, when we experience a coworker's or friend's betrayal, when a spouse does or says something hurtful or when someone victimizes us and or someone we love.  I know that most of you have experienced one or all of the above transgressions and you well know that each are attached to various levels of real pain, real anger, real resentment, real bitterness and real sadness.  The emotions that well up within us just below the surface of our exterior demeanor can make us feel like an unassuming can of soda pop that has been shaken violently and then set before others for human consumption.  We become that suppressed stress in a can and the only treatment that can defuse and calm the pressure that is welling up within us will always be the unnatural supernatural power of forgiveness.  

"A dove will never be found in a burning tree and love will never be found in a heart that won't forgive.” ― Jason Versey

Forgiveness is unnatural but, ironically enough, it is also supernatural.  It has amazingly shocking health benefits that go well beyond the physical.  It, very well could be, the cure we need to live a happier, more joyful, healthier and less stressed filled existence.  Forgiveness is a soothing balm that heals us from the inside out and its afterglow has the power to overflow into every aspect of our lives.   A dove will never be found in a burning tree and love will never be found in a heart that won't forgive.  It's impossible to experience true love if our hearts are unwilling to forgive others.  Forgiveness is absolutely necessary to experience real love.  Unforgiving feelings and love can never coexist comfortable within the heart. 

So what is forgiveness?  Well, psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed us, regardless of whether they actually deserve it.

It's just as important to understand what forgiveness is not.  Many who study and or teach forgiveness make it clear that when we forgive, we do not gloss over the seriousness of the offense against us. That's not healthy either. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing the offense. Even though forgiveness can help repair our damaged relationships, it doesn’t obligate us to do so and it doesn't release a person from legal accountability from their transgression but it does relieve us (the forgiver) of much undo pain, stress, anxiety and anger. 

So what does forgiveness have to do with our well being?  Well, here are 5  great beneficial healthy reasons to give it a try.

1. Forgiveness Is Good For Our Hearts.  Research has been shown that forgiveness has effects on lowering blood pressure. A 2011 study of married couples in the journal of Personal Relationships, for instance, showed that when the victim in the situation forgave the other person, both experienced a decrease in blood pressure. 

2. Forgiveness May Have Immune System Benefits. Medscape reported that research shared at a 2011 meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine identified that people with HIV who practiced genuine forgiveness toward someone who'd hurt them had higher CD4 cell percentages (considered positive for their immune status). 

3. Forgiveness Relieves Stress. When we are chronically angry, we're in a "flight or flight" mode, which can have effects on our blood pressure and heart rate, according to John Hopkins Medicine. But when we truly forgive, that leads to decreased stress, which can help to diminish our anger, anxiety and hurt.  Also, WebMD reported on a Hope College study, showing that when people held on to a grudge, they had higher physiological activity such as facial muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure and sweating, compared with when they forgave.

4.  You Just Might Live Longer.  People who practice conditional forgiveness, in other words, people who can only forgive if others say sorry first or promise not to do the transgression again, may be more likely to die earlier, compared with people who are less likely to practice conditional forgiveness, according to a a 2011 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 

5. Forgiveness, Literally, Helps You Sleep Better At Night.  A 2005 Journal of Behavioral Medicine study showed that forgiveness is associated with a whole range of health measures that include sleep quality and fatigue. Researchers found that the health benefits of forgiveness seem to come largely from its ability to reduce negative sleep affects such as feelings of tension, anger, depression and fatigue. With forgiveness, "the victim relinquishes ideas of revenge, and feels less hostile, angry, or upset about the experiences," the University of Tennessee researchers wrote.  Less anxiety and hostility equals better sleep, better sleep means better quality of life. 

So humor me for a moment...

I want you to close your eyes and picture the person or group of people you have been unable to forgive in your life with an HD kind of vision.   Visualize them standing before you.  Really look at them closely (from head to toe) and remember what they did to you.  What do you feel in this moment spiritually, emotionally and physically?  How does this person make you feel?  

It's quite evident that being unable to forgive is a toxic poison to the spirit, mind and body because when we think of the people that we refuse to forgive, our spirits become dark and jaded, our minds turn to anger and our stomachs begin to sour and perhaps our hands even begin to sweat.   This is proof that when we maintain bitterness and contempt towards someone, we're actually binding ourselves to that person in a dark way.  We've given that person a strong foothold in our life with an emotional connection that is more confining than most prison cells.   It's a jail sentence of solitary anger because (in most cases) that person has (most likely) moved on with their life and yet we have given them the power to control our feelings, moods and behavior. Forgiveness is the only thing that breaks that negative emotional bond.  It's the very key that sets us free.  

It has been quite humbling when someone has forgiven me and restores my broken spirit when I knew I was guilty and quite deserving of their anger and disappointment.  I've learned that there is no greater feeling than experiencing that kind of love—other than bestowing that very same gift upon another human being who has hurt or disappointed me.  It's truly an unnatural “supernatural” power and it's a power that resides within us all.

The health benefits for forgiving are quite astonishing and you can see that the impact it has on our physical and emotional lives has nothing to do with the person we are forgiving and everything to do with freeing ourselves from the influence and power that past pain and or people have caused us.

I wish you love, I wish you joy, I wish you peace and great happiness in all the things that deeply matter to you. ~Jason

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS