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Old 09-23-2015, 12:55 PM   #1
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Default The Healing Power of Forgiveness

The following is excerpts from an article in Bottom Line Magazine:-

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Recent studies about forgiveness have proven what major religions advocate-showing your antagonists compassion and letting go of the desire for revenge can improve your psychological and physical health.

Example: In a study of 71 people conducted at Hope College in Michigan, researchers found that forgiveness lowered risk of heart problems. Participants were asked to recall hurtful memories about friends, lovers, parents and siblings. Their heart rates and blood pressure tested significantly lower after they had forgiven the people who had hurt them.

Even once we know the benefits, many of us find it hard to forgive. It's easier and seems more satisfying to strike back-or to fantasize about it-than to turn the other cheek. Can forgiveness really improve our lives? How can we learn to forgive?

Bottom Line Personal spoke to renowned journalist and commentator Ellis Cose. During his distinguished career, he has interviewed victims of some of the worst atrocities of our time-survivors of the Holocaust and African genocides. .. adults molested by priests in childhood ...parents of children murdered by people now on death row. ..and families of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Cose was amazed at how many of these ordinary human beings found the capacity and willingness to forgive-and were better off for it.

How do I forgive when it seems Impossible? There are basically three steps.

Step 1:
Get some perspective on your pain and anger. People who were able to get on with their lives refused to see themselves as victims. If your spouse cheats on you and leaves, you aren't an unlovable dupe-you're a devoted person who was stronger than your spouse.

Step 2:
Attempt to empathize with the person who hurt you. Think about what he/she was feeling at the time of the transgression, and understand the pressures and factors that made him commit harmful acts. This doesn't mean that the acts were justified. It means that you have put yourself in the transgressor's shoes. This is the crux of forgiving and perhaps the hardest part.

Step 3: Stop thinking of forgiveness in absolute terms. Many people fantasize that their compassion will inspire gratitude from the person who hurt them,
followed by a reconciliation and a state of peace and comfort. What you often get is partial relief-a release of your most intense anger-that allows you to move on.

Doesn't forgiving let people off the hook when they should be held accountable for their actions?

Finding a genuine way to respond with compassion may seem like letting abusers get away with their actions, but it actually benefits you more than the person you forgive. Victims told me that forgiveness was a psychological tool to heal their own wounds so that they could lead happier, more positive lives. Think about how much energy it costs you to hold on to past incidents, feeling resentful over actions and remarks made years ago. By admitting that you can't change the past and renouncing the hold your anger has on you, you become stronger and more effective.

For example Nelson Mandela spent 26 years in prison, in horrid conditions. When he was freed at the age of 72, he was bitter at his captors but was determined not to let it ruin the rest of his life.

"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy."

To forgive, don't I need an apology from the person who hurt me?

It's easier to feel compassion if the perpetrator acknowledges what they have done and expressed regret - but victims have told me that making forgiveness contingent upon an apology gives control of your emotions to someone who wasn't worthy in the first place. The result is that you cling to your anger and perpetuate your victimization.

What if I just can't forgive? Is there something positive I can do to feel better?

People who struggle with forgiveness sometimes engage in "constructive revenge." They take aggressive action aimed not directly at their abuser but at a larger goal that fights the kind of thing the person has done. This transforms their suffering into something nobler.

Example: A man's son was killed while delivering pizzas. The perpetrator was caught and sentenced to life in prison. The sentence brought no relief for the father. What brought him relief was by starting a school, in his son's name, to teach youth about the dangers of violence. By working in a constructive way he was able to release his anger, guilt, resentment and grief.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Ellis Cose, contributing editor to Newsweek and Weekend Edition commentator for National Public Radio. News. He is author of several books. most recently, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Reparation and Revenge (Atria).

Love always,


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