Let’s consider these other aspects and effects of forgiveness in more detail.
Physically, there is a lot to be said for the effects of forgiveness. According to some studies, forgiveness can even add years to your life. How?
When we forgive, we find our way to peace with each other and ourselves. This calms stress and leaves you feeling more positive.
A Positive Outlook about the Future
Better Physical Health
This last item might surprise you until you realize just how much our health is tied in with how we think and feel.
When we hold a grudge or spend time talking down about ourselves, we build stress levels, flinging more cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol is one of those things which used to be helpful, back when we relied on fight or flight to save our lives.
Today, though, we don’t need to prepare for battle, so all cortisol does is create a whirlwind of adrenaline which winds up doing more damage than good.
Your heart rate speeds up.
You experience high blood pressure.
Your immune system is suppressed, meaning you become sick easier.
Worsening of chronic pain.
It takes longer to heal.
You’re more prone to diabetes, higher cholesterol, and obesity.
A lack of forgiveness will probably negatively impact the specific relationship you’re refusing to forgive. But what are the effects of forgiveness on the other relationships in your life?
The person who forgives is seen as:
Someone Worth Knowing
The converse is also true. When people see you holding grudges, they might start holding back around you. They won't be open or as eager to spend time in your company. In some sense, the other person might even feel like they're 'walking on eggshells, worrying about whether a single mistake from them would blow things up in an unpleasant way.
Worse, because you've been hurt, you start holding back from them as well, keeping a careful distance that doesn't involve committing yourself too deeply to anyone else. With this mindset, you'll never become close to anyone at all.
Now consider what a lack of forgiveness can do in how you view the world. As you’ll see, this can pack quite a wallop as well.
You become stuck in fight or flight mode.
Frequently focuses on what is likely to go wrong.
You have a more difficult time looking forward to things.
It’s less likely you’ll make goals or plans.
You experience more anxiety.
You're tenser overall, with an expectation of disaster.
You’ll be less likely to enjoy meeting new people.
You’re apt to be harder on yourself.
You frequently use negative self-talk.
You pull back from others easily.
You’re more prone to depression.
You're at a higher risk for suicide.
Now imagine something so simple as forgiveness taking all this away. A person who forgives:
Sees the world through a more positive lens.
Is more open to gratitude.
Has a better self-image.
Expect the best from people.
Is more open to change.
Is more optimistic.
Is more willing to try new experiences.
Enjoys meeting new people.
Has a better outlook on life in general.
Is less likely to be troubled with anxiety, worry, or depression.
All this is quite a difference, isn’t it?
As you can see, there's quite a bit of power to be had in forgiveness. More than you might have expected from such a simple concept dating back so long ago.
With so much benefit to forgiveness, it kind of makes one wonder why people struggle so hard to forgive, doesn’t it?
Interested in more? Watch Benefits of Forgiveness.
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Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so glad you found your way here.
I am at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to support those who work to grow themselves. I am a trained coach and have consulted with churches in conflict. Not your stereotypical minister, I embrace the Gospel with joy and laughter as I seek to help those around me grow in faith and understanding, always striving to leave people better than they came. An agent of wholeness, I create a safe space for people, especially those who have been marginalized, where they can understand how ridiculously loved and valued they are by God/Higher Power/Spirit, and to experience the difference that makes in life.
I started the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast to share the stories of people who have faced life's most difficult challenges, to inspire you to lean into and overcome your own. It's helpful to know that you're not alone in your struggles and to see how others have navigated similar circumstances. You can listen to it here.
Here's what I can do for and with you.