In 2007, I collaborated with 100 health experts to create a book of the best health advice we could offer. This book is called 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. This is an excerpt from the book by Anna Barbosa, MA, CHt
Will You Forgive or Will You Hold On to Anger?
Your decision could affect your health and the quality of your life.
Studies prove that people who choose not to forgive have more stress-related illnesses, lower functioning immune systems, and increased likelihood of heart disease than people who forgive.
A study by Kathleen Lawler, PhD, at the University of Tennessee measured noticeable differences in the increases of blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension between forgivers and non-forgivers when participants were asked to tell a story of betrayal. Results showed that the forgivers had a lower resting blood pressure and smaller increases in blood pressure than low forgivers or non-forgivers. High forgivers also reported fewer visits to their physicians for physical ailments!
In his book Forgive for Good, Dr. Frederic Luskin states that unresolved anger resets the internal thermostat. This low level of anger begins to feel normal, but it actually burns out the body. Anger is a secondary emotion that masks hurt feelings. Forgiving helps us give up the hurt and allows us to heal.
Let’s take a moment for a quick experiment. Focus on someone or some event that has caused you hurt or pain. Close your eyes for about fifteen seconds, and feel what is happening in your body as you maintain that focus. Do your muscles tighten up? Do your heart beat and breathing rate increase? Does your body feel like it is on alert? Now imagine how that physical response plays out over and over again anytime you have an experience that is similar to or reminds you of that event or person.
To forgive does not mean that the offense is condoned. Whether the offense was done (1) with malicious intent (the violator was abusive), (2) with unintentional harm (the violator was unaware of the harm caused by his or her actions or words), or (3) by inappropriate positive intent (the violator criticizes or hurts to teach a lesson), it is not minimized with forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean weakness. It does not mean surrendering to defeat or avoiding justice. In fact, it takes strength to truly forgive from your heart. Often the greater the hurt, the more difficult it is for the injured person to want to forgive. However, there is no offense that is so great that it cannot be healed by the gracious act of forgiveness. A life of forgiveness is available to all of us. The paradox of forgiveness is that the true beneficiary is the forgiver. Forgiving can enhance the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce secreted cortisol. A study by the Duke University Medical Center demonstrated that those who have forgiven experience lower levels of back pain and less associated problems such as depression.
The emotional well-being of the forgiver is enhanced. Forgiveness returns the control of your emotions to you. Thinking becomes clearer because the mind is not clouded over with thoughts of anger, hate, or revenge. You live life in a proactive manner, rather than a reactive manner. The benefits of forgiveness are far-reaching. According to research compiled by A Campaign for Forgiveness, a nonprofit organization, forgiveness affects health, marriages, businesses, relationships, communities, and nations.
For the complete article and 100 other great ways to improve your health, purchase the book (paperback or ebook)
University of Tennessee, “UT study shows forgiveness linked to lower blood pressure,” news release, March 1, 2000, http://www.psychosomatic.org/media_ctr/press/annual/2000/017.html. 2 F. M. Luskin, Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (San Francisco: Harper, 2001). 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health