Dog begging for forgiveness after chewing paper.

Forgiveness as an Indicator of Health

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This article begins a series examining the topic of forgiveness and the health benefits that come from forgiving. Research shows that forgiveness and health are definitely related.Dog begging for forgiveness after chewing paper.

First, let’s look at forgiveness in a general sense and what the Bible says about it:

It is not uncommon for Christians to have questions about forgiveness. For most of us, forgiveness doesn’t come easy. Our instinct is to recoil in self-protection when we are injured. We don’t naturally overflow with mercy, grace or forgiveness when we’ve been wronged.

Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The thing that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you. Forgiveness can enable you to focus on other, positive parts of your life and can even create feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Refusing to forgive (by carrying a grudge), can make you may pay the price over and over by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life can get so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might get depressed or anxious. You may feel that life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might even lose connectedness with others.

The Bible says a lot about being forgiving:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 NIV

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22 NIV

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-16 NIV

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25 NIV

So, follow along as we look at what research has to say about forgiveness and health.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.