OBEY THE LAW OF FORGIVENESS AND THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS ON YOUR HEALTH AND WELL BEING

           Let me share a secret with you, it is referred to as the Law of Forgiveness. Because we are beings of energy, universal laws and principles govern our energy.  These laws may be considered divine laws, imbued with Spirit.  These laws dictate the results of our thoughts and actions.

The Law of Forgiveness is one of these laws.  Basically, we cannot purify ourselves as long as we harbor negative feelings of hate, anger, intolerance, criticism and other such feelings towards others.  It is in forgiving others that we forgive ourselves.  We cannot be forgiven until we first forgive ourselves.

To give obedience to the Law of Forgiveness, you mush conclude completely the event, to release completely, from all thought and memory, everything that happened, including all feelings of harm or injury, whether thought justified or not.

Ideally, when you tell someone “I forgive you”, show forgiveness through love and through actions founded in love.  If you do this, resentment toward the other person cannot remain alive and you do not cultivate the feelings of hurt and resentment that may be in your heart.  This is the law you should obey, for if you do not obey the law spiritually you will forgo the beneficial effects on you health and well being.

The Law of Forgiveness transpires on a spiritual plane. However scientific studies have been conducted that show that following the universal Law of Forgiveness has beneficial effects on your health and well being, from a medically scientific perspective, too.

The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  Mahatma Gandhi.
 

An article in the January 2005 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch discussed five positive health effects of forgiving that have been scientifically studied:

Reduced stress.  Researchers found that mentally nursing a grudge puts your body
though the same strains as a major stressful event: Muscles tense, blood pressure rises,
and sweating increases.

Better heart health.  One study found a link between forgiving someone for a
betrayal and improvements in blood pressure and heart rate, and a decreased
workload for the heart.

Stronger relationships.  A 2004 study found that women who were able to
forgive their spouses and feel benevolent toward them resolved conflicts more
effectively.

             *  Reduced pain.  A small study on people with chronic back pain found that
those who practiced mediation focusing on converting anger to compassion
felt less pain and anxiety than those who received regular care.

              *  Greater happiness.  When you forgive someone, you make yourself – rather
than the person who hurt you  – responsible for your happiness. One survey
showed that people who talk about forgiveness during psychotherapy sessions
experience greater improvements than those who don’t.

Although this article was featured in a women’s health publication, it would appear that the findings could be extrapolated to men’s health also. In addition, there have been findings that additional benefits to forgiving someone are greater spiritual and psychological well being, fewer symptoms of depression, and lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
.          

“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.  In return, you will receive peace and happiness.”  Robert Muller.

Looking at scientific studies, one of the landmark scientific studies in this area was conducted by Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, Thomas E. Ludwig, and Kelly L. Vander Luaan at HopeCollege in 2001.  The findings were published in the research article “Granting Forgiveness Or Harboring Grudges:  Implications for Emotion, Physiology and Health.”

To summarize the study, interpersonal offenses frequently mar relationships. Theorists had argued that the responses that victims adopt toward their offenders have ramifications not only for their cognition, but also for their emotional and psychological health.  The study examined the immediate emotional and psychological effects that occurred when participants, 35 females and 36 males, rehearsed hurtful memories and nursed grudges, or as the study analogized were unforgiving.  This was compared with when the participants cultivated emphatic perspective taking and imagined granting forgiveness, or were forgiving, toward real-life offenders.  The findings were that unforgiving thoughts prompted more aversive emotion, and significantly higher corrugator or brow electromyogram (EMG), skin conductance, heart rate, and blood pressure changes from the baseline.  The MEG, skin conductance, and heart rate effects persisted after imagery into the recovery periods.  Forgiving thoughts prompted greater perceived control and comparatively lower psychological stress responses.  These results dovetailed with the psychophysiology literature.  It also suggested that unforgiving responses might erode health, whereas forgiving responses may enhance it.

It was believed that this study was the first to explore the psychological effects of adopting various forgiving and unforgiving responses to real-life offenders.   The study suggested that although people cannot undo past offenses, if they develop patterns of thinking about the offenders in forgiving ways, they may be able to change their emotional, their psychological responses, and the health implications of a past they cannot change.

“You will know that forgiveness, has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”  Louis B. Smedes 

In the paper, “Forgiveness, Health and Well-Being:  A Review of Evidence for Emotional Versus Decisional Forgiveness, Dispositional Forgiveness, and Reduced Unforgiveness, in J.Behav. Med (2007) 30:291-302, decisional vs. emotional forgiveness was studied.  It was recognized that both decisional and emotional forgiveness were important antagonists to the negative affect of unforgiveness and agonist for positive affect.  Decisional forgiveness is a behavioral intention to resist an unforgiving stance and respond differently to a transgressor.  Emotional forgiveness is the replacement of negative unforgiving emotions with positive other-oriented emotions.  Because emotional forgiveness involves psychophysiological changes, it has a more direct health and well-being consequence.

Refining their knowledge about forgiveness in relations to health and in coping with disease it was found that forgiveness might play a palliative role in coping with gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and stress-related disorders. Also, forgiving might affect cancer risk directly by affecting glutamate and the N-methyl-D-asparate receptor, which affects free radical concentration, which in turn might affect cancer risk.  However, forgiveness might contribute to the actual healing or treatment of cancer only indirectly through relationships or social support, or by helping people be more at peace with their aliments, or contributing to fewer mental consequences, and more positive mental health consequences.  The study acknowledges that more research needs to be done, but by the conduct of more studies and the literature from those studies, the evidence for connections between forgiveness and health mounts.

“When a deep injury is done us, we will never recover until we forgive.”  Alan Patos ~ South Africa Writer and Educator, 1903-1988. 

Carl Thoresen, a professor of education, psychology, and psychiatry at StanfordUniversity, has studied the psychosocial factors connected with cardiovascular problems for more than 20 years.  He focuses on spirituality and health, and has conducted research projects involving forgiveness training.  The forgiveness training focused on positive measurement changes in depression, anxiety, stress, and other physical symptoms, such as blood pressure and heart rate.  There was a problem with the “forgiveness training”, however.  Men did not seem to identify with this, and the participants were mostly women.  A simple name change to “grudge management” increased the number of male volunteer participants in mass.   Culturally, men have had fewer outlets to unload in this area than women have, but this is an alternative for them to address this need. 

            “We achieve inner health only through forgiveness – the forgiveness not only of others but also of ourselves.”  Joshua Loth Lubma.  

Granting forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong.  You can forgive the person without excusing the act.  They are two separate concepts.  However, forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

To reach a state of forgiveness requires a commitment to a process of change.  Four helpful steps to move you through this process are listed below:

*  Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given
time.

*  Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this
combination has affected your life, health and well being.

*  When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you.

*  Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the
offending person and situation have had in your life.

            Forgiveness works in two directions.  Sometimes you forgive, and in other times you need forgiveness yourself.  We are not spiritually perfect beings.  The first step is to be honest and access and acknowledge the wrong you’ve done, and how it might have affected others you care about. You should avoid judging yourself too harshly.  If you are truly sorry, for what you have said or done, consider admitting it to those you have harmed. Specifically ask for forgiveness with no excuses.  You can never force someone to forgive you, but you can commit to obey the law of forgiveness. Your health and well being will benefit, and you gain compassion, empathy, and respect.

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