How to Discover the Power of Forgiveness

Improve mental and physical health by forgiving

Most of us will agree that forgiving someone of her wrongdoing has the power to make us feel better emotionally, but did you know that forgiveness also has the power to heal us physically?

According to psychologists at the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, forgiveness has the power to help heal emotional wounds and also has physical benefits. And practicing forgiveness on smaller issues can help you deal with bigger problems, according to Fred Luskin, Ph.D., cofounder and director of the Forgiveness Project. Learn about the healing power of forgiveness, and how practicing forgiveness on a daily basis has the power to improve your life.

Step 1: Let go of misconceptions and resentment

According to Peter Murphy, director of the Office of Family Life for the Archdiocese of Washington, you must let go of pain and resentment before the healing power of forgiveness can occur. Murphy adds that, in addition to resentment, you also need to let go of your misconceptions of forgiveness. He says that forgiveness is not forgetting; it is also not exempting someone from the responsibility of what they have done. Forgiving does not have the power to ease all of your hurt feelings. The power of forgiveness does not involve magically returning relationships to the state they were in before a hurt took place. Forgiveness is the cancelling of a debt and the beginning of the healing process, Murphy adds, and it takes practice.

Step 2: Practice

Luskin describes forgiveness as a muscle, and like working out a muscle, your abilities get stronger with practice. Many people of faith agree.

According to J. Bennett Guess of the United Church of Christ, as well as Journey Film’s The Power of Forgiveness, forgiveness is taught, learned and rehearsed. The film illustrates that forgiveness is something you have to do every day.

Step 3: Learn about the emotional healing power of forgiveness

According to Luskin, forgiving has the power to do the following: make you feel less angry, less stressed and anxious, more confident and more hopeful. According to Robert Enright, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and author of Forgiveness Is a Choice, when your heart softens and you move toward forgiving, there follows a substantial improvement in your emotional health.

Step 4: Discover the physical power of forgiving

Forgiveness has physical healing powers as well. Studies are revealing that forgiveness has the power to strengthen your heart.

A study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that people who forgive more often see their blood pressure return to normal during stressful situations faster than people who don’t, and that people who forgive have lower blood pressure in general.

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison reveals that people who hold grudges have more heart problems than those who forgive. Need further evidence of the power of forgiveness? Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, Calif., and Duke University Medical Center found that the power of forgiveness also includes a healthier immune system, fewer headaches and less back pain.

So start forgiving, and you’ll feel a whole lot better — emotionally and physically!

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