HEALTH & WELLNESS Mind & Health  >  August 7th is International Forgiveness Day

August 7th is International Forgiveness Day

August 7th is International Forgiveness Day
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BY STEVE NUBIE

If ever there was a time for forgiveness in the world, it’s now.

There doesn’t seem to be a day when we’re not confronted by violence in the world sparked by rage, anger, prejudice and resentment. Unfortunately, the flames are being fanned by some people with political ambitions and the fear and the anger seems to spread as new grudges grow and new misunderstandings emerge.   Forgiveness seems to have eluded us as a species.  But there are distinct and proven benefits to the act of forgiveness and they’re worth considering.

To be clear, this is not about forgiving and forgetting. Forgiveness is a willful act of release from the anger and resentment that can dominate our lives, but the memory can’t be erased.  It’s more a question of not dwelling on the memory and moving on to the more positive aspects of our lives rather than letting a grudge dominate it.

In a study done by Stanford University grudges negatively impact emotional, mental and physical health. When we or others we care about are harmed by others in some way we end up feeling bitter and hard-hearted. The more we ponder these feelings the more our anger makes us wrathful and revengeful.  It becomes a feedback cycle without a governor to stop it or slow it down.

The end result is a high degree of stress which begins the downward spiral affecting all aspects of our health. That’s why it’s important to take control of the rage and the bitterness and turn to forgiveness as a way to heal.

How forgiveness helps

According to the Stanford study, forgiveness has the following benefits:

  • 27% reduction in physical symptoms of stress, such as backache, sleeplessness, headache and upset stomach
  • 42% decrease in depression
  • 35% increase in self-confidence
  • 62% decrease in feelings of hurt
  • 15% reduction in long-term feelings of anger

Quite often, the cause of many of these signs and symptoms are the direct result of not pursuing forgiveness as an act of release.

What is forgiveness? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s all about letting go. Letting go of thoughts of revenge and resentment.   They acknowledge that the act or incident will always be a part of your life, but the act of forgiveness can lessen the grip of the memory and focus on positive aspects of your life.

It should also be noted that forgiveness is not about denying someone’s responsibility for their actions nor does it justify any wrongdoing. It’s possible to forgive without excusing the event, but forgiveness can bring peace to someone who has been hurt so they can go on with their life.

Types of forgiveness 

There are essentially two types of forgiveness depending on the relationship, the event and how it affects someone.

  • Personal forgiveness is between people who know each other on a personal level such as a friend, family member or co-worker.
  • Impersonal forgiveness is between a person or persons we are not acquainted and has either committed a crime against us or a family member, or is responsible for an incident or event affecting others.

 Both types of relationships can create resentment and bitterness and forgiveness can relieve the stress, anxiety and anger that has resulted.

Additional benefits of forgiveness 

The Mayo Clinic added to the Stanford University list with the following benefits:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

Accomplishing the act of forgiveness 

No, it’s not easy and it can take time but the following steps can lead someone closer to forgiving and bringing control back into their life.

  1. Think about the facts of the situation and how you’ve reacted.
  2. Consider how both the facts and your reaction have affected your health, mood and general well-being.
  3. Move away from the role of victim.
  4. Allow forgiveness to release the control the situation and people involved have had in your life.
  5. Choose to forgive when you’re ready.

Some people use various techniques to accomplish forgiveness including prayer, meditation and careful reflection. Support from family and friends can also aid forgiveness if they help you approach the situation with a positive attitude.  You may actually find that you need to help a family member or friend to achieve forgiveness if it’s an incident or event that affected both of you.

In the end it’s a matter of choice. We can choose to dwell on painful events cause by another person and suffer the clinical consequences, or take the time to pursue forgiveness as a way of taking our life and lifestyle back to the way we want it to be.  It’s not simple and it takes time but the benefits are clear and are worth remembering.

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Steve Nubie
Steve Nubie has been writing professionally for 38 years. He is a published author with 10 books to his credit, has written for CBS Entertainment for the Twilight Zone series, and has written hundreds of articles for magazines and the Internet. He has served as Chief Creative officer in the marketing and advertising industry, was an Executive career-coach, is a chef and has traveled extensively living in Asia for two years, and London for two years.