Maybe you’ve heard the old saying that refusing to forgive is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.
It’s pretty spot on! While it may seem like forgiving is something you do for someone else, actually, you are the one who reaps the benefits!
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.
I think we struggle with forgiving because we look at it as letting them off the hook or minimizing what they did. In actuality, forgiving has less to do with the person who may have hurt you and everything to do with the offense, flaw, mistake, or transgression. We can either hold on to the offense (don’t forgive, hold a grudge) or release it. Someone has said holding a grudge is letting someone live rent-free in your head. A lot of truth to that!
Just to be clear, when we talk about unforgiveness, it simply means to continually rehash, think about, and ruminate on an old hurt or transgression, whether your own or someone else’s.
If you are still holding on to it you have not forgiven it.
Remember, every single thought you have has a corresponding emotion and biochemical expression attached to it. So every time you think about it, you experience the emotions again and release those chemicals into your physical body.
You don’t have to forget or condone the wrongdoing committed against you and you don’t have to reconcile with that person. In fact, it might be foolish or even dangerous to do so depending on the offense. You release the offense they committed but you don’t have to become their BFF.
All that being said, studies have found that some people are just naturally more forgiving. However, you can cultivate a forgiving attitude and for your own good health, you should!
One of my favorite bible scriptures is Galatians 2:20 which basically says by faith we trust that Christ lives His life through us. Well then, if I expand on that verse, it is no longer I who forgives, but Christ the Forgiver in me Who forgives. I can release the offense to Him and let Him handle it.
So, Here Are My Top 6 Amazing Health Benefits of Forgiveness:
Reduces Stress, Anxiety, and Inflammation.
Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Whether you are aware of it or not, every time you think of the person who hurt you or what they did, your body responds. Stress hormones are released. Often it is easier to forgive anyone else than it is to forgive yourself! Carrying around guilt, shame, anger, self-hatred, and unforgiveness causes stress and anxiety at a very deep level.
When you’re in a chronically angry, resentful, hurt state, you’re in fight-or-flight mode. This is when cortisol is flowing through your body, breaking it down. Forgiveness has been found in studies to lower cortisol levels and boost immune function. In a 2016 study, researchers found when forgiveness rose, stress levels went down, which, in turn, led to a decrease in mental health symptoms.
When you forgive, your heart rate evens out and will actually decrease, becoming more coherent. This results in lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduced heart attack risk. Why make your heart work harder than it has to? Incidentally, studies show this blood pressure lowering benefit is true for both parties, the one forgiving and the one being forgiven!
Less Chronic Pain.
One study of people with chronic back pain selected some participants to receive usual care for eight weeks and others to take an eight-week course on turning anger into compassion. After eight weeks the results revealed that those who received the standard care reported no change in discomfort but those who forgave felt significantly less pain and anxiety.
Boosts Immune Function.
Research showed that people with HIV who practiced genuine forgiveness toward someone who’d hurt them had higher CD4 cell percentages. These are cells that notify other cells to kill viruses and infections. Refusing to forgive causes stress and compromises the immune system on many levels.
Science has discovered that the nervous system has direct input into the immune cells surrounding the gut. We know from personal experience that the way we think and feel affects our health, but this discovery led to the discovery of psychoneuroimmunology. The endocrine and immune systems are constantly in communication with one another. So, the stress hormones that are released disrupt the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and other infections.
We are told not to go to bed angry and scientifically it is true as well. A 2008 study found that those angered by wrongdoings such as verbal abuse, deceit, and physical harm accounted for a large percentage of the millions of Americans who experience sleep problems. It was found that those who had forgiven the people who made them angry fell asleep faster, woke up less during the night, and were more alert during the day. Inadequate, poor quality of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Clearly holding a grudge is not worth giving up a good night’s sleep!
Being chronically stressed, which is part of holding a grudge, releases the stress hormone cortisol which causes fat to be deposited in deep abdominal tissue. This belly fat is very active and causes more and more fat storage. Unforgiveness triggers a chronic stress response, which promotes fat to be stored in the most dangerous and hardest to lose place in your body.
Do you know of any other health benefits that were not mentioned in this article? Please share them with us in the comments section below!
Wishing you peace and forgiveness!