In fact, Katherine Piderman, Ph.D., with the Mayo Clinic, said when you don’t practice forgiveness, you may be the one who pays most dearly.
“Evidence is mounting that holding on to grudges and bitterness results in long-term health problems,” she said. “Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits.”
Among the benefits listed were lower blood pressure, reduction of chronic pain, few symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved psychological well-being and more friendships, as well as greater spiritual well-being.
“When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge or embrace forgiveness and move forward,” said Piderman.
Signs that it may be time to embrace forgiveness include dwelling on the events surrounding the offense, being consumed by a desire for revenge or punishment and having symptoms of depression or anxiety. It’s almost like the person is renting space in your mind. It eats at you.
At Leviticus 19:18, God said, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.”
This might be easier said than done, but most devout people will concede that God would not ask of us something we could not do. Do you agree? So how does one forgive a painful offense and release a grudge?
First, we must recognize the value of forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Did you know your relationship with God hinges on your ability to forgive? No matter how much good we do, if we cannot cover the flaws of others with genuine love, we hurt our relationship with God. Isn’t that a powerful incentive to release any grudge and forgive?
As Ephesians 4:32 says, “But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” — New World Translation.
Try to recall all the wrongs you have committed and how much you relied on God’s forgiveness to release you from your own guilt feelings. Remember how good it felt when you knew God had forgiven you? That’s what He wants us to do for each other.
Jesus said at Mark 11:25, “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” — New Living Translation.
Can you make this a matter of prayer? Keep praying until you experience a change. If you feel you have forgiven the person yet you want nothing else to do with them — don’t be too quick to judge yourself as unforgiving.
The Bible acknowledges not everyone moves toward forgiveness at the same rate. Proverbs 18:19 admits, “Making up with a friend you have offended is harder than breaking through a city wall.” — Contemporary English Version.
It takes some people longer than others to let you back into their lives and re-establish trust once they have been offended. This may be you. What can help?
Realizing that getting over certain offenses may be easier than getting over others is both realistic and reasonable. An act of betrayal by a close friend or spouse may take more time to heal emotionally than slander by a mere acquaintance. But seeking Divine help in overcoming any hurt feelings is always appropriate.
In most cases, the direct approach recommended by Jesus at Matthew 18:15, has proven to be the course of wisdom: “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.”
Oftentimes, the offender had no idea of the hurt caused and even if they did, you’ve given them an opportunity to correct it confidentially. Most people will appreciate your efforts.
But what if the person who offended you is not sorry? Getting the other person to change is not the point of forgiveness. The other person may never change or apologize.
“Think of forgiveness more about about how it can change your life — by bringing you more peace, happiness and emotional and spiritual healing,” said Piderman.
“Forgiveness takes away the power the other person continues to wield in your life. Through forgiveness, you choose to no longer define yourself as a victim. Forgiveness is done primarily for yourself, and less for the person who wronged you.”
More importantly, we become imitators of God as beloved children. Do you want to be happier and healthier? Then practice the joy of being forgiving.
*For a copy of The Little White Book of Light featuring more Wright Way columns, visit barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com and amazon.com.