Why Forgiveness Is Important To Living A Healthy Life
If you’re interested in learning why forgiveness is important to living a healthy life, you are in the right place!
Most of us can agree that at some point in our lives we’ve been on the receiving end of hurts and offenses.
Be it big hurts or small ones, we’ve been there: hurt, wounded, sad, grieved, resentful, angry, and bitter.
Those feelings are not fun to carry around. It definitely doesn’t help the situation at all to be dragging around a huge bag of bitterness. The worst!
So how do you go from being hurt and offended to forgiving and moving forward? Why is forgiveness so important anyway?
If you’re ready to do some self-reflection and learning, then buckle up sister. Time to learn and grow together!
Please read until the end because there are some FANTASTIC book recommendations you won’t want to miss!
*This article contains affiliate links which means I may make a small commission from any items that you purchase.
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What is forgiveness?
According to Greater Good Magazine, forgiveness involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. By doing this, it empowers a person to recognize the pain they suffered without letting that pain define them. This allows them to heal and move forward.
Forgiveness is also…
- Not just words, but a choice to move forward and let go
- An imperfect process that does not produce magical results
- Something that has to be done daily for some people
- Letting go of bitterness, anger, vengeful thoughts, or resentments that you have towards the person who wronged you
- Easier for some than others
- Necessary for living a healthy life
- Important for maintaining healthy relationships (marriage, family, and friendships)
- Brings a peace that helps you move forward in life
One huge takeaway from this list is that forgiveness is a process.
Forgiveness is so much more than saying words to someone or a feeling you have in your heart. It goes WAY beyond that.
You can’t go into forgiveness thinking that in one moment you will be free from everything that’s been weighing you down.
However, realizing that you need to take steps towards forgiveness for your own health and well-being is a great first step.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Another reason why choosing forgiveness is important is because of the many benefits it can bring to your life.
Have you ever felt weighed down because of unforgiveness, resentments, or broken relationships?
I sure have.
I have experienced broken friendships, strained relationships with family, as well as bitterness towards people that I love. The weight of those burdens at times felt like too much to bear.
There were stretches of time where I’d wake up thinking about the issues and continue to think about it all day long. Terrible!
Trust me, absolutely no good came from it.
Eventually I realized that it was necessary to just let it go. Give the situation over to God, pray for strength to forgive, and move on.
Not easy, but necessary.
If you are needing some motivation to move towards forgiveness, there are definitely some huge benefits, both physically and emotionally, from choosing to forgive.
Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, had this to say about forgiveness and its physical effects on people:
“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”
Swartz also adds:
“It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings, whether the person deserves it or not. As you release the anger, resentment and hostility, you begin to feel empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.”
Have you ever experienced that huge sigh of relief after you let something go? It’s so freeing! When your stress levels go down, that is GOOD NEWS for your health!
According to the Mayo Clinic, some benefits of forgiveness are:
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
I’m sure most of us can see this list and think, Yes! Sign me up! I want to reap all of these benefits. Wait…but that means I have to forgive…DANGIT!
Forgiveness is hard, especially when the offense was something extremely hurtful and unthinkable like abuse, an affair, or taking the life of someone you loved.
Having said that, now is probably an appropriate time to talk about what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not:
- Excusing what the offender did
- Saying that what happened doesn’t matter
- Permitting that person to do the hurtful acts again
- You trying to change the offender
- Forgetting the offense
- A guarantee for reconciliation
- Trusting the offender right away (or ever!)
If your spouse had an affair, choosing forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re saying what happened was okay. (I forgive you honey, and I’m fine with you cheating on me again.) YEAH RIGHT! You forgiving your spouse is about you moving forward and releasing those negative feelings.
If you were abused by one of your loved ones, you choosing to forgive is not condoning their behavior at all.
Many times we can fall into the trap of thinking that if we forgive someone we are letting them off the hook for the offense.
That is completely untrue.
Remember, you holding that grudge and not letting go is just slowly destroying you, giving the offender more of a hold on your mind and heart.
By choosing to forgive you are giving yourself permission to reflect, process, grieve, forgive, and move forward.
All of these things are necessary to you living a healthy and more peaceful life. Let that baggage go!
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Scripture has a lot to say about this topic!
If you are a believer, then you have received the greatest forgiveness through Christ’s death and resurrection on behalf of your sins. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
You’ve known forgiveness personally, and therefore have the power to forgive others.
Because of the forgiveness we have in Jesus, we are able to forgive others. (Ephesians 4:32)
According to Jesus, we are to forgive someone seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
If we hold on to bitterness and resentments, that is unloving and does not honor the Lord.
Vengeance belongs to the Lord, and it is not up to us to right wrongs. (Romans 12:19)
Forgiveness is necessary for anyone who is a follower of Christ.
When I struggle with forgiving others, sometimes my prayers are simple and I just say, “Lord please help me let this go. You’ve forgiven me for my sins when I didn’t deserve it. Please help me forgive _________. I don’t want to carry this around anymore. I need your help and strength to do it.“
A prayer like that is very freeing!
How do you forgive someone?
I get that forgiveness is important, but how do I actually process through everything and choose to forgive? It’s so hard!
You’re right. Choosing to forgive is very hard. But it is still so necessary.
Forgiveness requires that we let go.
We have to do that in our minds and in our hearts.
Here are a few tips about the process of forgiveness that I’ve read in my research:
- Remember and reflect on what happened
- Visit the ancient ruins in your mind and heart, according to author Beth Moore. If you read her book Breaking Free (which is linked at the end of the article) you can find out more about this tip. She encourages her readers to revisit the past, deal with all the hurts, so you can move towards complete healing
- Process the pain (talk to a counselor or trusted friend, journal, pray)
- Pray and ask the Lord to give you the strength to forgive
- Deeply and completely forgive
- Forgive yourself (if that’s necessary in your particular situation)
- Move forward
Maybe you have spent time processing what happened, but you still keep thinking about it all the time. If it seems to be all-consuming and the only thing you think about, then you probably have more work to do.
Don’t lose heart in the process! Give yourself grace. Keep taking steps towards complete forgiveness.
What are good resources on forgiveness?
There are some fantastic resources on forgiveness out there! I’m going to list a few noteworthy books as well as some helpful websites.
I’d also like to add, if you are in the thick of your struggles with unforgiveness and it’s affecting your health, please seek out good, reputable counseling.
If counseling is not affordable for you, check out resources at your local church. Sometimes just sitting down and talking with a pastor can be great medicine for your soul!
Books: Snag any of these on Amazon today by clicking on the book images!
Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa TerKeurst
Breaking Free by Beth Moore
The Gift of Forgiveness by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt (this is one of my favorites!)
Do Yourself A Favor…Forgive by Joyce Meyer
The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness by John MacArthur
Let’s Wrap It Up!
Thank you for being willing to read through this whole article! I’m sure for many of you, it required a lot of courage to go back to those yucky parts of your past.
You are so brave!
I think we can definitely all agree why choosing forgiveness is important.
Now, in our individual situations, we have to take the necessary steps and choose to forgive.
It won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it.
Remember, forgiveness is about you moving forward.
Forgiveness does not condone what the offender has done or make it okay for them to do it again.
Forgiveness will help release you from the baggage you’ve been carrying around for years or even decades.
Give yourself the gift of forgiveness and live a healthier life!
Praying for courage and freedom in your current situations.
Lots of love to each of you!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” ~Romans 15:13
Cover Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash