The Power of Forgiveness

Did you know that the medical books consider Unforgiveness  a disease?

Did you also know that according to the Bible Unforgiveness is a poison?

Did you know Buddha believes Unforgiveness leads straight to suffering?

The type of suffering Buddha speaks of takes many forms, such as bitterness, stress, illness, resentment, unhealthy competition, holding grudges and hatred.
In fact, According to the Dhammapada (the Buddha’s path of wisdom), “Those who attempt to conquer hatred by hatred are like  warriors who take weapons to overcome others who bear arms. This does not end hatred, but gives it room to grow.”

There are many studies that show a clear connection between unforgiveness and negative effects on our biology, psychology and emotional state.

Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them that way. He goes on to say, forgiveness therapy has become widely used in treating cancer patience.
He explains that harbouring Unforgiveness hinders someone’s reactions to treatments, even someone’s willingness to pursue treatment.

Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues, and more than 50% are severe, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, a pastor and the author of the book, The Forgiveness Project.

Harboring negative emotions, like bitterness, resentment, anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety.

Chronic anxiety invariably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body’s army in the fight against cancer.

 

Studies and research

Studies based on Scanning the brain show that the emotional centers of the limbic system light up when we consider forgiving. Research shows that negative emotions in general, including angry and hurt feelings, make it more difficult to forgive. For many of us, forgiveness is a process that involves expressing and examining the hurt and loss that we feel.

 It is also extremely important to understand that true forgiveness is not a purely rational exercise. We are encouraged to forgive from a deeper place – the heart. When we go deep into the realms of the heart, where deep emotions are stored – this is were we forgive from. When we do this, we are genuinely free. The Bible in Matthew 18 speaks about forgiving from the heart and it’s connection with the restoration of internal and outer peace.

Some people, after experiencing the effects of forgiveness describe it as a lightening up or a lifting of a heaviness. All in all, after forgiving there has in fact been a release of a burden, a lifting off of a heavy weight that applied emotional and psychological pressure on our hearts and minds. When we release this, we allow the internal and external alignment (thoughts, emotion, physical, biology and relationships) to be restored.

In one study, Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, a psychologist at Hope College, asked people to think about someone who had hurt, mistreated, or offended them. While they thought about this person and his or her past offense, she monitored their blood pressure, heart rate, facial muscle tension, and sweat gland activity. To ruminate on an old transgression is to practice unforgiveness. Sure enough, in Witvliet’s research, when people recalled a grudge, their physical arousal soared. Their blood pressure and heart rate increased, and they sweated more. Ruminating about their grudges was stressful, and subjects found the rumination unpleasant. It made them feel angry, sad, anxious, and less in control. Witvliet also asked her subjects to try to empathize with their offenders or imagine forgiving them. When they practiced forgiveness, their physical arousal coasted downward. They showed no more of a stress reaction than normal wakefulness produces.

Frank Fincham and Julie Hall, at the University of Buffalo, and Steven Beach, at the University of Georgia, recently reviewed 17 empirical studies on forgiveness in relationships. By their analysis, the studies suggest that when partners hurt each other, there is often a shift in their goals in the relationship. They might have previously professed undying love and worked hard to cooperate with their partner, but if this partner betrays them, suddenly they become more competitive. They focus on getting even and keeping score instead of enjoying each other. They concentrate on not losing arguments rather than on compromise. They use past transgressions to remind the partner of his or her failings. Forgiveness, assert Fincham and his colleagues, can help restore more benevolent and cooperative goals to relationships.

Summary

There are too many research papers, studies and controlled experiments to mention, that connect Unforgiveness with harmful psychological, emotional, physiological and biological repercussions. Needless to say, Unforgiveness attacks our wellness on many levels. We all have a good sense of this from our own life experiences, also from ancient spiritual wisdom and now, 21st century science.

The Big Question

are we going to make a special effort to create habits and procedures so forgiveness (as a practise) becomes integrated within our lives?

In short, if we do, we set our lives up for potential happiness, peacefulness, harmony and wellness.

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