Martin Luther King once said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
There can be no true peace in our lives without forgiveness. Forgiveness of those who may have slighted us; and forgiveness of ourselves for whatever burden we carry around with us. Guilt serves no purpose in our lives. Regret is nothing but an anchor around our neck that leads us through a life of never ending resentments of others and of ourselves.
Releasing these things will lead us to a path of peace, freedom and balance.
There may be no time in our history where forgiveness is in such deep need. There is an underlying anger in our world, we see it in the news, in film and television; we even see it on the road as we drive. People have started to accept this anger as the new normal. Let's hope that is not the case. If we all accept a little more forgiveness in our lives we can be steered more towards healing, good health and an overall acceptance of each other; acceptance of our differences and a path of truly loving our neighbors.
I can't help but reflect on the forgiveness of the people whose loved ones were killed in their church in South Carolina. I sat in awe as I listened to them say that they forgave the person who committed these horrible acts. It had to be the strongest position I had ever seen taken at a time of such pain and sorrow. They never said the man didn't deserve to be punished for his actions, but they said they forgave him. Their forgiveness of that man had absolutely nothing to do with him and everything to do with them.
They knew that the path to healing goes through forgiveness. Of course, they could sit there for months, years, even decades holding on to their anger and resentment of this man. But how would that serve them? Letting go of the anger and resentment they had freed up their energy. It allowed them to direct that energy to healing, to help guide them on their spiritual journey and to help them reach a higher level of being.
Resentment and anger would do nothing but fan the flames of retribution, of blame and would call for revenge. They allowed themselves to rise above the emotions and begin their healing. It was a powerful lesson for me.
So how did these people act so quickly to forgive? It had to be because this was not new to them. It had to be because they have lived their lives in forgiveness. Forgiveness is like a muscle, when you practice it on smaller things, you gain the skill to deal with bigger ones, even in tragedy your heart will forgive because it knows how. It was obvious these people had it in their hearts already to forgive.
This was a powerful example of forgiveness. We may not face acts so strong but any guilt or anger we carry with us deserves the same level of forgiveness. Is it obvious that there is a simple secret to achieving happiness, balance, and better health: letting go of past hurts and absolving the people who've caused them, even if that person is you. You aren't doing it for the other person; you are doing it for you.
Research actually shows forgiveness has the following side effects:
A stronger heart. Forgiveness can help the heart bounce back from strain: A study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that the spikes in blood pressure we experience during stressful situations fell back to normal faster in people who were more forgiving of a betrayal. They had lower blood pressure too. Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that people holding a grudge had more heart problems than those who forgave. Even imagining the act of forgiving can help: When 71 subjects in a study were told to think about giving up a gripe, their cardiovascular and nervous system functioning improved; they also had less muscle tension in their faces.
Fewer headaches. After taking a weekly forgiveness class, 27 percent of students reported having headaches less frequently.
Back-pain relief. In a small study of patients with chronic lower backaches conducted at Duke University Medical Center, those who were more forgiving suffered less pain. A second study showed that teaching sufferers to practice a Buddhist loving-kindness meditation (meant to transform anger into compassion) for eight weeks caused a significant decrease in pain — and the more often they practiced it through the day, the more relief they got.
How to Forgive Yourself
The person it's hardest to forgive is often the one you see in the mirror. How to give her a break:
“People have to be forgiven. We don't have to like them, we don't have to be friends with them, we don't have to send them hearts in text messages, we don't ever have to see them again, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don't we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!”
― C. JoyBell C.
Forgiveness begins by looking in the mirror and saying it's time! Forgiveness prevents the situation from destroying your heart!