Forgiveness Is Good For Your Health

Marissa Newby

Some apologies never come. If you expect an apology from someone, sometimes not getting that apology makes it difficult to move on. Expecting an apology that never comes can create doubt and make you feel invalidated. You can validate yourself through your own acceptance.

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Apologies can be difficult and leave you feeling unseenPhoto by alleksana

Why Forgive?

Maybe it feels easier to hold a grudge. Some grudges might feel great to keep in the place of someone who has wronged you. Many believe that holding that grudge is a step in never being hurt in that way again. As it turns out, there is a bit of science behind forgiveness.

Johns Hopkins notes that forgiveness can "reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels and sleep, reducing pain, blood pressure and levels of anxiety, depression and stress". Continually holding on to hurt can make us angry. Chronic anger has some sweeping health concerns and it can place you into fight-or-flight mode. Being in this state chronically can increase stress hormones in the body and immune response deficiencies.

Being unwilling to forgive and creating consistent anger is bad for you quality of life, but it can also be bad for your quantity of life. Researchers have found a link between benefits of forgiveness and lower mortality rates. Those who demonstrate forgiveness early in life also show less long term indicators for major psychiatric issues.

How To Forgive?

Forgiveness is an act of self-care. Forgiving someone should not depend on whether or not they apologize or whether they are capable of being introspective enough to realize you deserve an apology. Start by trying to have a level headed conversation with the person who has wronged you. State your case. Let them know that they have hurt you in some way. Allow them to space to offer their own apology without demanding it.

It is easier to know you have been hurt than it is to see what might have motivated someone to hurt you. Phycologists believe that developing empathy can help in this area. Empathy requires the ability to put yourself in someone else's situation. Self-accusation is not the goal here. Looking at a situation and wondering where you deserved to be hurt is not healthy, this can lead to negative self-talk. However, it would be valid to ask someone what motivated their reaction or hurtful action. Getting into the details might heal you both.

Journaling might be of some assistance here, too. Understanding deeper feelings within yourself might be able to help you identify those feelings in others. This can be especially helpful when the person who has wronged you is someone you can no longer communicate with or you have placed a boundary in your life for. Surviving someone can hold it's own validation.

Recognize that forgiveness does not mean acceptance. Someone's actions can feel unforgiveable. Forgiving them without their apology is also an act of self-care. Holding on to pain only has negative effects on your health, they can continue on in the world unbothered. As frustrating as that might be, sometimes you are wronged by someone who gets to direct the narrative. Your story does not need a billboard in order to be valid. Your hurt is valid independent of their self-awareness or willingness to apologize.

Forgiveness is not a weakness, in fact is demonstrates strength and character. Some people struggle to forgive because they do not want to be seen as weak. You just do damage to yourself. Forgiveness is a mastery level of self-control. See forgiveness as a measure of growth. They may not grow and mature beyond hurting you. Having the courage to forgive and move forward does not mean you permit them to keep hurting you. Setting boundaries can be a part of forgiveness. Often, those boundaries you set will register to someone faster than your request for an apology. Forgiveness with a boundary is a consequence, let them have the consequence they deserve as you move forward whole.

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Marissa, a graduate safety practitioner and paramedic, has been writing and editing fiction and non-fiction work for 15 years. She delivers researched and sourced news concerning world events, public health, public safety and emergency management.

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