I’m blessed to have parents who, early-on in life, instilled in me the importance of forgiveness. “They didn’t mean what they said.” “Your friend is probably just having a bad day.” My mom was, and still is, one who always saw the best in people and chose compassion over anger. So it has always felt very natural for me to let go of unpleasant feelings I’ve had towards those who have been hurtful or offensive. Throughout my life, this practice has served me well. However, there have been several occasions when I have failed miserably at extending mercy to others and have paid a hefty price for my arrogance. On two specific occasions, my body fiercely rebelled against my repressed anger and landed me in the hospital for surgery.
In my book, The Secret Side of Anger, Dr. Bernie Siegel states that “One’s life and one’s health are inseparable. Genes do not make the decisions. Our internal environment does. You internalize anger and it destroys you. Self-induced healing is not an accident.” Our body reflects our internal mood. It is in essence a messenger for our emotional and spiritual selves.
How can forgiveness protect our physical health?
1. Forgiveness lowers stress levels and the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. For years, doctors have warned us that the number one cause of disease is stress. Therefore, lowing anxiety through forgiveness helps to preserve our physiological well-being.
2. It’s not only Cheerios that are good for the heart. So is forgiveness. Those who are more empathetic and compassionate have lower heart rates.
3. Having a forgiving heart may lower both emotional and physical pain. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that those suffering from chronic back pain and chose to let go of their anger experienced lower levels of pain. Less stress (tension) = less pain. Makes perfect sense to me.
4. We all know that anger, stress, fear, etc. can raise blood pressure. Letting go can have the reverse effect.
5. Holding on to grudges can take years off your life. People who choose the path of forgiveness tend to live longer and healthier lives. They are typically happier, more serene, empathetic rather than judgmental, hopeful and agreeable – all affirmative mental characteristics that translate into positive physical benefits.
Medical research has shown that non forgiveness can negatively impact our cardiovascular and nervous systems and that by extending mercy to others those affects can be reversed. Like most life skills, forgiveness can be taught and absolutely must be practiced. Research has revealed that the benefits are significant and long term. Perhaps that’s just one of the reasons the Lord instructs us to forgive – to protect the one and only physical body we’ve been given for this lifetime.
Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Whether on an emotional or physical level holding onto grudges is just plain unhealthy. It is you, not the other party, who suffers. And don’t you deserve so much better than that? Let it go. You will not only improve your physical health but you will rediscover inner peace as well.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
If you or anyone you know needs help forgiving, visit www.FromGodWithLove.net for a very inspiring video.
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