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The Psychology of Forgiveness

The Psychology of Forgiveness

Do we really forgive and forget? This old saying is not beneficial in real life as our brains find it hard to forget upsetting events. In life, there are undoubtedly some wrongs that will not be forgotten. These wrongs should be remembered to ensure that we do not endure the same pain again. Therefore, forgetting is unlikely but we can learn to forgive!

We have all experienced hurt and betrayal – some experiencing greater amounts than others. Everyone can relate to holding a grudge that’s gone on for too long or feeling guilty for a mistake.  As humans, mistakes are easy to make but forgiveness is not as easy. Forgiveness may be the last thing on our minds when someone does something awful, but forgiveness is not just for the perpetrator- it’s essential for our own well-being. Initially, you may feel hurt and a surge of other negative emotions, and this is okay and natural. However, if you hold on to these negative emotions for too long it can have a negative impact on your life and cause you to ruminate on the past.

Forgiveness cannot be forced – it is a choice you must make yourself. Forgiveness takes courage and a lot of effort and patience. It is often a long and difficult process. If we do choose to forgive it is a way to release the distress and negative emotions associated with the memory of the incident/incidents.

To forgive does not mean that you forget the experience. It also does not mean that you are condoning what happened or minimizing the offence. It is not a sign of weakness to forgive. If anything, it is a sign of great strength to be able to move forward from a painful past.

How does forgiving others benefit us?

Research shows that those who refuse to forgive suffer as a result. These individuals have higher stress levels, higher heart rates, more physical pain, are more pessimistic and have lower levels of self-esteem than individuals who practice forgiveness. It has also been shown that individuals who struggle with forgiving others are more likely to experience a decline in their immunological and cardiovascular health.

In a 2016 study it was found that even if your life has been exceptionally hard, forgiveness can help put you on a level playing field with people who haven’t experienced as many upsets. The study found that being highly forgiving erased the link between stress and illness.

Forgiveness allows us to move on, it removes us from feelings of anger and hate. Everyone has something that they can be forgiven for and that they must forgive. Forgiveness allows us to leave what is in the past in the past and focus on our present and future.



                                                                                                       Written by Rebekka Johnston