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by Jack Wellman
2008-01-20 09:11:24
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When I saw an old acquaintance of mine from my High School days, I waved but inwardly stewed. I just could not forgive that man…for changing my life, destroying my car and my insurance rating…many, many years ago. I customarily put my car keys above my car visor as we lived in a very small town. But one night my friend, who had greatly indulged in the spirits, took my car without my permission and subsequently rammed my 69’ Chevy Camaro into a gas pump. For others it has been from their being humiliated, taken advantage of, being abused, and other serious events that are impossible to forget.

Harboring a grudge lowers the body’s resistance and allows more damage from viruses, infections, toxins and also increases the likelihood of accidents. It negatively impacts the immune system. Like a poison, resentment and burning for revenge increase the risk of cancer. Bodily functions operate less efficiently, oxygen is deprived, for other’s grinding their teeth at night, having temperamental experiences with family, friends and in public.

The early Eastern medicines understood the cause and effect of not forgiving and poor health. Forgiveness can act like a healing balm which slowly penetrates and chips away at old, worn feelings of anger and resentment. The damage that years of resentment can do is well documented health professionals. Additional risk factors include anxiety, depression, grief, drug abuse, stress, eating disorders, and cardiovascular diseases. Generally, they are miserable and have an extremely short fuse. This can lead to isolation and severe loneliness due to the withdrawal of family and friends.

Forgiveness promotes good mental and physical health. And this is exactly what the world desperately needs right now - more patience, forgiveness and tolerance among one another. The world becomes more a global neighborhood with each passing day and peace and understanding is becoming a precious, rare commodity and it seems where there is short supply, there is great demand. These people’s predisposition tends to increase companionship, and the number of friends one has.

Forgiveness is necessary in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Blaming others for your present state of affairs, like your parents, for example, is choosing not to forgive them. And not only extending forgiveness, but asking for forgiveness. There are two sides to every issue and I have often been the one to blame, so it was up to me to apologize. I have done so many times and have yet, I am sure, to do so again in the future. The universe seems to revolve around me more and excludes others. But when both parties can collaborate and settle the issue, they both equally benefit. The universe is back to its proper place, and I am not in it.

Relationships are a two-way street, but one can not control what others choose to do or not to do. If you choose to forgive others and they choose to not forgive you, you have met your obligation. However, you can control your decision to forgive. Only a look in the mirror reminds me I have rubbed people the wrong way, like rubbing a cat’s fur the wrong direction. No doubt, I have deserved maltreatment. Evidence indicates that the older a person gets, the more benefits received by forgiving - physically, physiologically, emotionally, and mentally.

There is no scientific explanation for this. Perhaps it is attributable to longer, more established relationships and friendships, which in themselves have proven beneficial in regards to living a longer life. And living in the past (i.e. harboring a long held grudge) has detrimental effects since all attention is focused inward. Like the world revolving around someone.

There are steps and procedures from the Mayo Clinic on forgiveness. When my children were young, I told them that life is not always fair. You have to learn to accept people for the way they are. No one is perfect. Forgiving, although not easy, is a choice. Extending forgiveness is doable. I have finally done this with my former classmate…and many, many others. I realized that I do more harm to myself than the other person. Although it seems impossible to forget, it is a proven fact that peace and health are related to a forgiving spirit. Indeed, it is in that person’s and my own best interests.

Click here to read more about the health benefits of forgiveness.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-20 11:36:45
“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Those are words that must have shocked the executioning Roman soldiers. They had probably never heard them before, neither had the whole of Greek and Roman culture for that matter. They understood justice (the Roman and Greek way) and they envisioned the True, the Beautiful and the Good but shied away from forgiveness. It was indeed a new concept without which one will not have the foggiest about Christianity and which on the surface seems to agree with the Socratic insight that to know the good is to do the good. But only on the surface. Paul says in one of his epistles: I know the good but I do evil. That is a more nuanced and realistic assessment of human nature.

Sand2008-01-22 18:14:28
Although forgiving seems to be a prominent feature of Christian doctrine I wonder how that stands with the church punishing its adherents in various ways when they don't conform to whatever is current in doctrine.

For myself I have had individuals do my family great harm and found the best attitude is not to forgive, but to deal with the resultant situation in a manner necessary to alleviate the damage as much as possible. It is not for me to try to either educate or concern myself with a stupid careless individual but deploy my energy as much as possible to help those for which I am responsible.

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