Why forgiveness is good for your health

The last thing you want to do when someone hurts you is to forgive them, many people react strongly to even the suggestion of forgiveness, but why is it so important to forgive?

I was reading an article the other week about forgiveness and in the comments people were horrified at the thought of forgiving someone who had hurt them, the general consensus being that they did not deserve forgiveness. I find it difficult sometimes to explain it to my clients in a way that will help them and one comment below this article really made it clear to me. This young man had been physically abused by his parent throughout his childhood and with years of therapy behind him, he still couldn’t bring himself to forgive until he changed the word forgiveness to unburdening. For the first time in his life, he was able to let go of the anger and resentment, essentially forgiving them but it made it so much easier to do when he saw it as unburdening.

Health benefits of forgiveness

When you redefine the meaning of forgiveness it becomes easier to do. Forgiveness is about eliminating the negativity that results from hurt and letting go of the emotional baggage. It doesn’t mean that you condone the wrongdoing, or deciding whether the offender was right or wrong and it also doesn’t mean you have to forget. Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the wrongdoer, we forgive for ourselves.

The problem with refusing to forgive someone is that you are the one that suffers. The offender has likely moved on and doesn’t give it a second thought, their lives are unlikely to be hampered by the event that causes you so much pain, anger and resentment. What is it you gain from holding on to it? Forgiveness helps our growth and makes us happier, it frees us to live in the present. Forgiveness helps us to gain back our power. When you hold on to anger and resentment, you are allowing that person to control how you feel, imagine handcuffs on your wrist attaching you to that person, you can never be free from them until you forgive and unlock those handcuffs.

Forgiveness is good for you physical and mental health, our mind and our bodies are connected, negative thoughts are treated by our brains as a sign if danger and cause untold damage to the rest of your body, including your immune system. When you forgive someone you lower your risk of a heart attack, improve cholesterol levels, blood, it reduces pain and also helps you sleep better. Forgiveness also reduces anxiety, depression and stress.

How do you forgive someone when it feels impossible?

In order to forgive it is important to acknowledge and accept what happened to you. Think about the incident, what occurred and how were you affected by it? How did you react?

Acknowledge the growth. What did you learn from this experience? Often when we look back at the difficult experiences we have been through in life we are able to see how we grew as a result of it. Maybe you learned about your needs or your boundaries, perhaps it set you on a different, more positive path through life.

Think about the person who hurt you? We are all flawed, it’s part of being human. They acted from their limited beliefs and flawed frame of reference, because we all do at times. People also often act out of pain, were they going through something difficult at the time? Put yourself in their shoes and see if from their point of view, were you both at fault?

You may want to tell them you forgive them, but if not it doesn’t matter. Say I forgive you out loud, write it in a journal, or even visualise telling them in your mind. Your brain is unable to distinguish between real events and imaginary events so if you can’t face telling them in person, do so in your imagination and you will still get the benefits.

Forgivess is like coming to the end of a chapter in a book, turn the page and move forward with your story.

“I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It is a gift you give yourself.” – T.D. Jakes

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