Dec 21 2016

Season ForGiving

Category: Choices,Positive ThinkingPatricia @ 11:18 am

 

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We often speak of this time of year as a season of giving. We get caught up in purchasing the perfect present for our loved ones. We give more to charities. We feel as if we have an endless list of people we want to gift with something. We feel the need to recognize their presence in our life. Giving is a good thing. We enjoy it. It feels good. But there is something even better you can do at this time of year. Adopt a new tradition for the season: ForGiving.

Forgiveness is not simple. “It is much more agreeable to offend and later ask forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness,” said the philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche.  It may be difficult to stop feeling angry or to stop blaming someone. It’s hard to let go. When you forgive someone, you give up the right to hurt that someone in retaliation for hurting you. Remember, forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves it. Forgiveness is not an act of weakness or submission; it is an act of love, mercy and grace. When we forgive others we gain control of our lives and let go of painful emotions.

There is an abundance of research being done on the science of forgiveness. It shows that forgiveness makes us happier. And research suggests that happy people are more likely to forgive others. It’s not surprising to note that forgiveness helps to sustain relationships. We are more likely to forgive those closest to us. Forgiveness can stop us from undermining feelings of trust and commitment and help us to repair a relationship. In marriages, it has been shown that spouses who are more forgiving are better at resolving conflicts in their marriage and build stronger, more satisfying relationships. Forgiveness boosts a feeling of being more connected to others and therefore, promotes kindness.

Forgiveness improves our health and strengthens our immune system. In the article, “The New Science of Forgiveness” by Everett Worthington Jr., at Virginia Commonwealth University, references a study at Hope College where people were asked  “to think about someone who had hurt, mistreated, or offended them. While they thought about this person and his or her past offense, the researcher monitored their blood pressure, heart rate, facial muscle tension, and sweat gland activity.”  It was found that when “people recalled a grudge, their physical arousal soared. Their blood pressure and heart rate increased, and they sweated more. Ruminating about their grudges was stressful, and subjects found the rumination unpleasant. It made them feel angry, sad, anxious, and less in control.” When asked to try to empathize or imagine forgiving their offenders, the participants showed no more stress reaction.

To ruminate on an old transgression is to practice unforgiveness. Thinking about it brings the negative emotions of the past into the present moment. Worthington goes on to state, “unforgiveness might compromise the immune system at many levels. For instance, our review suggests that unforgiveness might throw off the production of important hormones and even disrupt the way our cells fight off infections, bacteria, and other physical insults.”

Apparently, the physical benefits of forgiveness increase with age. According to a recent study led by Loren Toussaint, a psychologist at Luther College, a national survey of nearly 1,500 Americans was conducted. Participants were asked the degree to which each person practiced and experienced forgiveness and also reported on their physical and mental health. It was found that people over 45 years of age who had forgiven others “reported greater satisfaction with their lives and were less likely to report symptoms of psychological distress, such as feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and sadness.”

Forgiveness usually takes time as well as effort. But it is well worth that effort! Forgiving others is important. Forgiving yourself is essential. There are four key elements in the therapeutic process of self-forgiveness. These elements are responsibility, remorse, restoration and renewal. You must take responsibility for your actions as the first step towards genuine self-forgiveness. You must recognize what you have done and how you have hurt another individual or hurt yourself. When you accept responsibility, it is natural to feel remorse. These feelings can be processed and expressed. In order to make the necessary amends to the offended individual, the act of restoration is necessary. An apology or restitution is offered. And the final component of self-forgiveness is renewal. When you forgive yourself of your past actions, you are able to feel compassion for yourself and engage in behaviors that promote self-kindness now. You get to begin again.

During this season of giving, I encourage you to give yourself the ultimate gift of love. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Make that choice. Negative emotions of anger, disappointment, resentment, guilt, shame and remorse are toxic to your health and well-being. Offer an apology or accept one. Take a look at your emotions and let go of the ones that cause you pain. Forgiveness may not come naturally, but it is something that can be learned. Take a moment to see things from the other person’s perspective. Be kind to yourself. And above all, keep in mind that we are all doing the best we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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