WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? HOW CAN IT SAVE YOUR LIFE?
(From Chapter 8 "The Big Forgive" of my 2010 book Transformation. ~Bill Phillips)
Forgiveness is a process of letting go of a resentment or grudge held against another person. “I forgive you” means “I release you.” By releasing someone, we in turn are liberated from the mental, emotional and spiritual injury caused by our own pent-up, negative energy.
The word ‘forgive’ implies, by its components, a kind of ‘giving.’ And that’s a very important point. You see, granting someone true forgiveness is not based on any conditions. The forgiven don’t have to deserve it or earn it. It’s an act of grace and mercy on your part.
Most of the world’s religions include teachings on forgiveness, especially the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). For example, in the sacred narratives of the New Testament, Jesus (taken literally or metaphorically) said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins.” (Mark 11:25-26 [NIV])
Philosophers throughout the ages have taken note of the importance of forgiveness, and some of history’s most thoughtful writers have recorded their insights as well. “To err is human; to forgive is divine,” wrote the eighteenth century English poet Alexander Pope.
In more recent times, particularly the last few years, the scientific community has recognized the ‘medicinal value’ of forgiveness. For example, in one study at Stanford University it was shown that adults between the ages 25-50 who had been hurt emotionally in the past by a significant event (divorce, fired from a job, infidelity of a spouse, injured by a reckless or drunk driver) experienced an average of a 40% reduction in depression and emotional pain after practicing a forgiveness exercise for just one week.
Additional health benefits from letting go of anger were reported in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, November 2009. A study involving 2,755 people, with an average age of 41, were evaluated over a period of 10 years. Those who repressed anger and held resentments were found to be TWICE AS LIKELY TO DIE OF A HEART ATTACK compared to people in the study who were able to process and let go of negative feelings. The take-home message from the findings of this scientific study is: FORGVING OTHERS AND RELEASING RESENTMENT CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE, LITERALLY.
Another recent study at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, showed that merely holding the intention of forgiveness in mind has immediate effects on our health and energy levels. Researchers in this study attached sensors to a group of college-age students. They were asked to first relive a time in the past when they were hurt by someone. From there, they were directed to think about it in two different ways. One was to imagine getting revenge on the offender and punishing them.
The other was to imagine forgiving the person and releasing the anger associated with the incident. Their findings were very interesting. The students’ blood pressure and heart rate went up over 35% when they thought about acting out their revenge. When they considered forgiveness, they entered a healthy state of ‘coherence’ where they enjoyed a relaxed heart rate and optimal blood pressure.
Oftentimes people limit their capacity to forgive by thinking that if they don’t bring the offender to justice, nobody will. For me it’s helpful to understand that I’m not judge and jury of the universe. I have absolute faith that the Source of life itself has everything under its control, and this being the case, it presides over all cases of injustice. When I forgive, I envision removing a pocket of negative energy from my awareness and turning it over to the Divine so it can be done away with. I don’t picture delegating my grievance to a vengeful God with the expectation that it will 'kick ass' or punish the person for me.
Another factor which can contribute to a person’s unwillingness to forgive arises from a common misunderstanding, which involves applying laws of the physical world to spiritual matters. In the world of matter, if I have a dollar in my hand and I give it to you, then you have one and I have none. Spiritual economics works differently. If I give compassion and forgiveness to you, my currency doesn’t go down, it goes up. And if I resent you, my energy, or ‘soul voltage’ as I call it, diminishes.
This also means that the cynic who can lure you into hating them is taking your life currency and energy. The more we forgive, the more we care, the more ‘spiritually rich’ we become. Literally and metaphorically we profit by giving forgiveness away.
Of course, in the nonphysical realm currency isn’t counted in dollars, it’s measured in what we might call vibrant frequency or light, which is the gold standard. John 1:7 (NIV) indicates that light and Divinity are one and the same. Becoming "LIGHTER" is therefore more than a reference to just losing weight within the teachings of my Transformation process... it is perhaps the most important change we can make on every level of our being.
That's my 2 cents worth... that's how I see it. I could be wrong though... it wouldn't be the first time. =)
(Additional thoughts on Forgiveness added March 18, 2012 by Bill Phillips)
Here's another 2 Cents worth (we are up to 4 cents now in this blog =)
Human beings are always going to get sideways with each other from time to time... it's part of life... it's part of the human experience. We see the world so subjectively that it often isn't even possible to see past your own perspective so why even bother trying to prove who is wrong and who is right... nobody wins with chronic conflict. What helps me is to work at starting each day with a clean slate, not dragging any of the pain of the past into the present... as it would limit my future. I lose count of how many times each week I apologize each week and I forgive quickly and completely in most all cases. I have a vision, a dream, and goals that a very, very, very important to me.
Reaching these objectives is like climbing to the summit of a mountain. It's work... it takes all my focus and energy and skill. If I added any more baggage or weight in the form of resentment or guilt, I'd never reach the apex. For me, reaching my goals and moving in the direction of my dreams and vision is far more important than grinding an ax or plotting revenge. Life works well this way... at least it does for me... I have a ways to go, and I will keep working at it, but I aim to forgive fast, apologize a lot, and just let it go ASAP.
I am surprised at how often people chose the opposite... they hurt themselves the most when they refuse to apologize and forgive and when they hang on to grievances. I've seen people burn so many bridges and in effect ruin their lives over things that should have been processed and surrendered within a few days. I can't do that and reach my goals so I have to let it go and move on.
Resentments are kind of boring and painful... forgiveness is liberating and helps me move into an exciting future filled with positive energy and purpose... the decision to forgive and forget and move forward may not always be easy, but I promise it will always be worth it.