How to Forgive
How to Forgive
Science shows learning to forgive can make you happier and healthier.
Your mom told you to forgive. And most religions encourage forgiveness. Plus, it’s just a nice thing to do, right?
People who genuinely forgive tend to be healthier and happier, science suggests. For example, a recent University of California, San Diego study found that participants who thought about a hurtful event experienced lingering blood pressure spikes that—if repeated over time—could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
In another study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, scientists compared participants who did not forgive a prior perceived wrong with those who did. The participants were then asked to walk to the foot of a hill. The forgivers perceived the hill to be considerably less steep than those who held a grudge, suggesting that forgiving can lead to optimism.
So, how do you go about forgiving—especially if you have tried, but still dwell on past hurts?
Robert Enright, professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a leader in forgiveness research, and a founding member of the International Forgiveness Institute. In one of his books on the subject, Forgiveness is a Choice, Enright breaks forgiveness into five steps:
1. Admit you’ve been treated unfairly.
2. Express your anger.
3. Recognize the wrongdoer is a person who is more than the offense at hand.
4. Accept that your pain may never go away completely.
5. Find meaning in the experience and grow from it.
Forgiveness is not for everyone, argues psychologist Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You?
“Traditionally, we’re taught that forgiveness is good for us, and good people forgive,” Spring says. “But a lot of people gag on the notion that they should forgive when the other person is not sorry or [is] unwilling to make amends. Then, the only option is not forgiving, and that is not healthy either. The hurt person is left dwelling on how he or she was wronged, and that will make you sick.”
When forgiving seems too generous but you recognize you must move on, Spring suggests taking these steps:
• Let go of your preoccupation with the slight. Move on.
• If you find yourself ruminating over the painful event, pause and say aloud: “Stop!” Redirect your thoughts to something pleasurable.
• Don’t make it all about you. “When someone feels wronged, they often feel shame and shattered,” Spring says. But sometimes insensitive behavior stems from the other person’s own hurt, life challenges or a misunderstanding.
• Protect yourself from further hurt. “Decide what level of relationship makes sense with this other person so you are no longer in harm’s way,” Spring says. Cutting yourself off entirely is rarely the healthiest option. Instead, establish boundaries that will protect you from repeat offenses. -By : Emma Johnson