If one by one we counted people out for the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long to get so we had no one left to live with. For to be social is to be forgiving.” ~Robert Frost
How do you see forgiveness?
Do you think forgiveness is only possible after someone who wronged you has come back and apologized? Otherwise, you’d find a way to get “even”. Maybe not outright but subtly praying and hoping for karma to strike back on your behalf?
Maybe you are much much better and realize that forgiveness is good for you. That it does not only shed the negative energy but helps you feel better about yourself.
In this post, You’d learn what religion has to say about forgiveness, If science agrees, and how to truly forgive and let go of past pain without waiting for closure that would never come when you need it.
What Religion Says About Forgiveness
For decades, Forgiveness has mostly been linked to religion. The one “mark” against forgiveness can be seen in the old testament with Moses’ famous tripe of “An eye for an Eye” but that was corrected in the new testament with Jesus’ forgive your enemies so you would be forgiven teachings. It is clearly stated in the Lord’s prayers that – We are shown mercy if we show others mercy.
Buddhist texts teach that holding onto “grudges” are likened to holding onto a hot coal that ends up burning you.
In Hinduism, the Vedas associates holding on to grudges with carrying a bag of negative memories, emotions and feelings, leading to anger and unresolved emotions that affect the present and the future
So religions tell us that forgiveness is for our own good and holding onto grudges only hurts us and not the other person.
If this doesn’t cut it for you because you are more “factual” here’s what the scientists have to say on forgiveness
What Science says about Forgiveness
Recently, The science community started releasing findings on the effects of forgiveness on Humans from a neurological standpoint
Studies like this one show links between the daily practice of forgiveness and an improvement in psychological health and physical health
Other benefits such as lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress, the act of forgiveness has been proven by science to reduce fatigue and improve sleep. It makes sense, doesn’t it? You’d rarely have peace when you’re holding on to angry emotions or thinking about the pain that has happened in the past.
Psychologist Charlotte Witvliet conducted a study asking participants to remember an old hurt they’ve had from someone, She discovered that when this was done, the memory not only manifested mentally but the bitterness and hatred showed physically. There was an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which led to increase in anxiety and mild panic attacks.
Just.From.Thinking.About. A past betrayal. This shows that holding on to such emotions is stressful, uncomfortable, and energy-draining
Dr. Frederic Luskin, co-founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project says that forgiveness is the only way to help yourself, and here’s why
“ Your brain has a happiness gauge called the nucleus accumbens. Throughout your life, your happiness meter might bounce back and forth on a scale of one to ten—ten being most happy.
As you go about your daily routine (breakfast, work, social activities), the nucleus accumbens sends messages to the amygdala—the pleasure center of the brain—to stimulate it when something pleasant happens (e.g.: a good meal) or negatively stimulate it when something unpleasant happens (from minor infractions and small disagreements to larger fights and nasty altercations). “ – Tiny Buddha
As humans, when faced with hurt or betrayal, we have only two ways to react – In the moment the emotions can flare up and you feel like doing something stupid. An emotional outburst maybe… Past this stage how you choose to react is more in your control but we never do that
We sometimes make it harder for time to do what it does best – heal us. And this is because we hold onto the hurt, betrayal instead of letting go and learning from it.
We try to make it make sense and when that does not work, we ruminate over this past hurt and betrayal and bring it to the surface again.
What you don’t know is that when you choose to keep thinking about these past hurts, a name(of the person who hurt you) or any hint of the offense (from who you felt) can cause a reaction in your nervous system.
Your amygdala gets activated in the 27th of a second, releasing cortisol – which is a stress hormone that makes you age quickly. This same hormone is produced when you’re under intense stress
Those hormones stay in your system for a few hours, until they are metabolized out. Frequent activation of these pain sensors reduces serotonin levels and can even lead to depression( Is it worth it still?- Holding grudges?).
On the other hand, letting go of that hurt, truly forgiving the other person and yourself can help you grow and releases dopamine to your brain(the feel-good hormone) that brings you calm
Forgiveness is hard to practice and most times we tend to forgive on the “surface” which does not help us at all. This is called “decisional forgiveness”
Decisional forgiveness is saying “I have forgiven you” but still stick with that emotion and can’t wait to use that knowledge to justify something you do in the future.
What you should REALLY do to be FREE
According to Dr Luskin you should practice “emotional forgiveness” This type of forgiveness is true and helps you release the bitterness, shedding their perception of the offense and leaving it in the past.
Emotional forgiveness creates a change in your personal life and improves mental health as you have less baggage of hurt to carry around
Emotional forgiveness is not easy to practice, I would know. And if you are like me in that it is sometimes hard to completely forgive someone, especially when you feel betrayed. As human beings, each and every one of us is hard-wired to seek vengeance and retribution when we feel wronged.
Forgiveness goes against this as it means you allowed someone “get away with a crime”
But from what you have read so far, you understand that the person who suffers more from holding on to grudges is YOU.
Religion and Science agree on this so it should hold true
Choosing forgiveness has nothing to do with who wronged you. You can decide not to have them in your life again, but the pain attached to the emotion and that feeling of hurt, letting it go is true forgiveness. The one we should all practice more for our sake and sanity
Real forgiveness does not require two people. It requires just you.
How to REALLY forgive: 3 steps to practicing emotional forgiveness
Controlling what you can control. Letting go enables you to move on from the past without being bound to it.
Next time you’re faced with whether or not you should forgive, don’t think of the person that hurt you; instead, think about yourself