Good for Your Health
I recently read about some work by Kathleen Lawler-Row, a professor of
psychology who has conducted extensive research into the effects of
forgiveness on the human body.
She studied the connection between forgiveness and stress. She would bring
them into her laboratory, and ask them to rate their forgiveness level on
a scale of one to ten. She would ask the people she was studying about
times someone hurt them, betrayed them, wronged them, etc. She noted that
forgiving people had a more difficult time trying to think of particular
instances. When they did start talking about a time they were hurt or
betrayed, she noted that their blood pressure would rise. Sometimes it
would be a very significant rise, from something like a 121/83 to a
184/127. This was the same in most people whether they were forgiving or
not. What happened next demonstrated the difference between those who were
more forgiving and those who were not. The blood pressure of those who
were forgiving quickly returned to normal, even as they were talking.
However, the blood pressure of those who were not forgiving tended to stay
elevated for long periods of time. Their blood pressure tended to stay
elevated. It didn't matter how serious the event they were describing was.
For unforgiving people, even trivial and minor hurts and betrayals
triggered a big jump in blood pressure that remained elevated.
The obvious conclusion is that forgiveness is good for one's physical
health. But it goes deeper than this. Most of us are aware that human
beings are not merely physical beings. We are social, emotional, and
spiritual beings as well. The health effects of forgiveness on our
physical self is a reflection of the effect it has on our emotional and
spiritual well being as well. Things such as hate, envy, resentment,
jealousy, etc. hurt us physically, emotionally, and especially
Consider the following passages:
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone,
so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your
transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is
in heaven forgive your transgressions" (Mk 11:25-26).
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and
every evil thing" (James 3:16).
"...God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no
murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (Jn 3:15).
"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for
the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God
whom he has not seen" (Jn 4:20).
Not having a heart of forgiveness can come between you and God. Whether it
is due to pride, jealousy, or selfish ambition, it will affect your
physical and well as your spiritual health. On the other hand, a heart of
grace and forgiveness can bring a great blessing. Notice this passage:
"To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted,
and humble in spirit;not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but
giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that
you might inherit a blessing" (1 Pet 3:8-9).