Tagged: “Why Forgive?”
What does love have to do with it? Do you really think that to forgive, we have to love the one who was brutal to us?
The benefits of forgiveness have been discussed and debated for centuries but scientific evidence that forgiveness actually “works” has been scant. All that has changed during the past few decades as legions of psychologists and clinicians have begun studying the ancient virtue from a stringently documented, peer-reviewed empirical perspective.
Dr. Robert Enright, an educational psychologist labeled the “forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine (and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute), published the first scientific study on person-to-person forgiveness in 1989. In the 15 years following the publication of that article in the Journal of Adolescence, the number of published forgiveness articles had jumped to more than 1,100. And today, researchers can pore through more than 3,000 published articles brandishing empirical evidence on the virtue of forgiveness.
Here is a quick look at several recent research reports related to the benefits of forgiveness:
Forgiveness Reduces Suicidal Behavior
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults and about 1,100 college students die by suicide each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). According to a study of 158 college students, all suffering from mild to severe depression, psychologists at East Tennessee State University found that:
“Students who are more capable of forgiving themselves and others after stressful life events or interpersonal problems have lower rates of suicidal behavior than their peers who are less able to forgive. This study points out that interventions that boost levels of forgiveness can increase self-esteem, hopefulness, positive emotions toward other people, and perceived self-control while reducing levels of depression, anxiety, and drug use.”
Forgiveness Education Program Reduces Depression, Anxiety, and Stress
After implementation of Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Education curriculum for high school students in Turkey, study results demonstrated that:
“Forgiveness Education has led to significant decrease in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Conclusion: Forgiveness Education can be used effectively for adolescents in school settings.”
Even Brief Enright Forgiveness Education Programs Improve Health
Chinese college students demonstrated positive improvement in emotional health following brief (4 sessions compared to the normal 12 sessions) exposure to Enright Forgiveness Education curriculum classes. According to the study:
“The analysis of the pretest and post-test scores indicated that both the Enright Psycho-social Programme and the Chinese Value-oriented Programme had positive effects on improving participants’ general emotional forgiveness, decreasing their negative emotions toward the offender, and improving life satisfaction.”
Forgiveness Significantly Predicts Life Satisfaction
Researchers have begun to investigate the relationship between happiness and subjective factors like Forgiveness. A study with 380 students from different departments of Bursa Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey, found that:
“Happiness has been found to be negatively related to stress and positively related to positive emotions, satisfying relationships, self-esteem, forgiveness, self-compassion, and quality of friendships.Results in this study also indicate that forgiveness and life satisfaction are positively related and that forgiveness significantly predicts life satisfaction. For this reason, my results are important for psychological healthcare workers, who can include these variables into their supportive and preventive programs in order to assess important characteristics that contribute to good psychological health.”
Anger at first when you are treated unjustly is reasonable because you are seeing that you are a person who deserves respect. Yet, where do you draw the line? When is this early anger sufficient? Do you want to keep the anger for a month? A year? How about 30 years? Also, what about the intensity of the anger. Do you want to be fuming inside for those 30 years? Do you think you will feel empowered if you live this way or could it wear you down?
I have believed that one does not forgive unless the other person apologizes. You say differently. Can you give me at least 3 reasons why it is ok to forgive someone who does not apologize or even refuses to do so?
Yes, I can give you three reasons as follows: 1) There is no other moral virtue on the planet that has a rule connected to it that someone else must engage in a certain behavior or say certain words before you can engage in that virtue. For example, you can be patient whenever you wish. Also, you can be fair to others no matter the circumstances. Why now is forgiveness the only moral virtue that must not emerge until the other person utters those three words: “I am sorry?”; 2) Your waiting until the other apologizes gives that person tremendous power over you. You could be stuck with harmful resentment or even hatred if the other refuses to let you forgive and be free of this toxic anger; 3) Your free will as a person is hampered if you must await permission from the other (with the words, “I am sorry”) before you can forgive. Here is a fourth reason: Suppose the person passes away before saying the three words. You now are stuck with the resentment with no possibility of releasing that potentially harmful emotion for the rest of your life.
A 54-minute podcast called “How to Move Past Resentment with Dr. Robert Enright, Founder of the International Forgiveness Institute” was released today and is now available free of charge on The Growing Through It Podcast network and major podcast channels.
“When someone wrongs, hurts, or violates us, we get angry,” according to podcast host Jen Arnold. “If we hold on to that anger and resentment it can fester, leading to increased stress, negative emotions, poorer mental health, a weakened immune system, and higher blood pressure. In this podcast, Dr. Enright outlines how can you get past the anger so you can get on with your life.”
The interview with Dr. Enright is episode 23 of the podcast series that Arnold has been taping and airing since last year. The series, she says “offers advice, real conversations, and stories of personal setbacks to help you grow from your challenges.”
Don’t just go through it. Grow through it.
Dr. Enright opens the podcast interview by defining what forgives is and what it’s not (since forgiveness, he says, is so often misunderstood). He goes on to explain what happens when people hold on to resentment before walking listeners through his process for forgiving others and forgiving one’s self as well as how to ask for forgiveness.
Jen Arnold is the founder and CEO of Redesigning Wellness, Inc., a company that offers resilience training to individuals and employee groups. She defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” Forgiveness, she adds, is an important component of that adaptation process.
- Listen to the entire podcast interview with Dr. Enright.
- View all The Growing Through It Podcast episodes.
- Visit the Redesigning Wellness website.