This post is Part 2 in an 8-part blog series on forgiveness. (If you missed the first post, you can find it here.) In Part 2, I want to talk to you about 5 reasons to forgive.
- Forgiveness is an important aspect of Christian spirituality. If a Christian faith isn’t an important part of your life, feel free to skip to reason #2. But if you consider yourself a Christian, it might be important to consider God’s heart on forgiveness. One important aspect of the Christian faith is the idea that God has forgiven us for the wrong things we have done, and thus we should forgive those who hurt us. First, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus connects divine forgiveness with interpersonal forgiveness (Mt 6:12, 14-15). Second, in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32), forgiveness is a central theme. The father’s forgiveness of the younger son paints a beautiful picture of God’s heart of forgiveness toward us. In contrast, the hard heart of the older son is a picture of our tendency to hold grudges and struggle with forgiveness. Third, the Gospel of Matthew tells the story of how Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother or sister, and Peter suggests seven times (Mt 18:21). (The teaching of the day was that you should forgive three times, so Peter was upping the ante a bit.) Jesus says no, we should forgive seventy-seven times (Mt 18:22), as if to say there should be no limit to our forgiveness of each other.
- Forgiveness is good for your physical health. Forgiveness is actually associated with better physical health. The thinking behind this link is that unforgiveness is stressful. It takes a lot of energy to hold and nurse a grudge. It’s like carrying a weight around with you at all times. Research has found unforgiveness is related to stress-related health problems, such as high blood pressure and cortisol levels.
- Forgiveness is good for your mental health. Forgiveness is also associated with better mental health. People who are quick to forgive are less likely to be depressed or anxious. People who forgive easily actually have higher levels of subjective well-being (i.e., happiness) and meaning in life.
- Forgiveness helps your relationships. All relationships have problems. Unfortunately, we aren’t perfect, and sometimes we are selfish and hurt those close to us. When hurts or offenses happen in a relationship, relationship satisfaction can go down, and a relationship that was once a source of happiness and fun can become a source of pain and strain. Forgiveness can help people work through relationship problems and restore the relationship back to health. Sometimes the forgiveness process actually strengthens the relationship and makes it better than it was before the hurt.
- Forgiveness helps your relationship with God. Forgiveness is associated with higher levels of spiritual well-being and closeness with one’s relationship with God. When you harbor resentment toward another person, this can strain your relationship with God. Forgiveness helps to counteract that strain. You may even accrue benefits in your relationship with God by working through a process of forgiveness.
Discussion: What do you think about these 5 reasons to forgive? Which reasons are most important to you? Any reasons I might have missed?