The Science of Forgiveness: How Letting Go Can Help You Grow
In so many situations, being able to truly forgive another who has transgressed you can be one of the most challenging obstacles you can face. Simply saying you forgive someone or acting like you forgive them only goes so far. It is the true art of real, honest forgiveness that challenges so many.
Being able to honestly forgive someone requires you to let go of pain and emotion and to completely forget an act that hurt you. It can be so easy to say that you are forgiving, to encourage others to forgive or even to talk about forgiveness as though it is an easy act—however coming face-to-face with actually having to forgive another person is so much more challenging.
Forgiveness is such a complex action and one that is filled with emotion. There has been a great deal of research behind the science and psychology of forgiveness as it triggers so many unique parts of the human brain and the body. In fact, research has found that carrying a grudge and being unable to forgive others actually physically weighs people down. It increases blood pressure and can elevate heart rates.
Holding on to feelings of betrayal and choosing not to forgive others can come with some seriously negative side effects, yet so many still have issues with forgiving others. While it is a complex emotion and one that many struggle with, there is a great deal of science behind forgiveness and what it can do to a person’s body, mind and spirit.
Understanding this science can help even the biggest grudge holders learn to let go and welcome forgiveness into their lives.
What Forgiveness Can Do For You
There has been a great deal of research done on the effects that refusing to forgive can have on a person. However, what many people don’t realize is there is just as many effects of choosing to forgive others.
True forgiveness is not just about saying words, it is a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings towards others and releasing any feelings of hostility or anger. This is easier for some than for others.
For those who are naturally more inclined to forgive others, they tend to have great satisfaction with their lives and to experience fewer issues with stress, anxiety and depression, while those who tend to hold on to grudges are much more likely to have issues with anxiety, stress and depression as well as the physical ramifications that accompany these conditions.
It is important to note that actual forgiveness is a choice, and a choice that can greatly improve the psychological health of adults. What is perhaps most interesting about many of the studies that have been done on forgiveness is that even those with strong emotional health and well-being can see great improvements when they forgive more.
So, Why is it So Hard to Forgive?
If there is one culminating conclusion regarding all of the research done on forgiveness it can simply be stated that choosing not to forgive can come with some negative psychological side effects while choosing to forgive comes with some positive psychological side effects. In other words, forgiving others is good for you and holding on to grudges is bad for you.
Evolutionarily speaking, it can be difficult to forgive because humans psychologically are motivated to avoid being exploited by others. We naturally want to protect ourselves, so forgiving and accepting those that have harmed us can be difficult or seem unnatural. It takes work to forgive. We have to let go of feelings and betrayal and we have to, in a way, be open and vulnerable to someone who has harmed us in the past.
If you are one of the many people who feels as though it extremely hard to forgive, no matter how beneficial it may be, chances are you may just be hardwired that way. While you may not naturally be as prone to forgiveness as others, if you make an effort to try to be more forgiving in your everyday life, the positive effects it can have may just astonish you.