May 06, 2006

Forgiveness Aids the Forgiver

"Sometimes forgiving the people who have hurt you is the best path to peace of mind and moving forward with life...

Forgiveness sounds good in theory and makes intuitive sense, but the actual mechanisms of the process can elude us, especially when we're suffering from another's actions...
There is still much confusion surrounding the topic of forgiveness. These misconceptions keep us from finding forgiveness and can be harmful, experts say. Conversely, by letting go of our negative emotions, we can significantly improve the quality of our lives.

Why Forgive?...

'Unforgiveness is a form of stress," says Dr. Worthington. "If we maintain this for a long time, we're going to experience cardiovascular disorders, stress-related disorders, and maybe anger-related disorders and fear-related disorders as well.'

If physical health isn't enough to convince you to consider forgiveness, consider the mental benefits. Put simply, unforgiveness just doesn't feel good. "It's really not a good state of mind," says Welshons. "In the end, you suffer even more." In other words, unforgiveness can hurt you more than it hurts the object of your emotions. Nine times out of ten, he or she could care less.

What is Forgiveness?
One of the reasons people don't practice more forgiveness is that they misunderstand what it actually entails. It doesn't mean that you approve of someone's actions or condone their behavior. "There's a big difference between forgiving someone and condoning what they've done," says Margaret Paul, PhD, lecturer and author of Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God?

Forgiveness doesn't mean that you continue to subject yourself to abusive behavior, nor do you have to agree to spend time with the person you are forgiving. It may be that in order to protect yourself physically and/or psychologically, you have to distance yourself from the other person. You can do so and still forgive, says Welshons.

So if forgiveness isn't about reconciliation and it isn't about excusing behavior, what is it about?

"Forgiveness is an experience of feeling compassion in one's own heart for the other person. You move out of judgment and into compassion and understanding for the other person," says Dr. Paul.

"Forgiveness is an emotional replacement of unforgiving emotions [such as resentment, hostility, anger and fear] with more positive emotions such as love and empathy for the person who has hurt you," adds Dr. Worthington...

Read more in this Beliefnet article.

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