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To forgive (others) or not, that is the question.

To forgive (others) or not, that is the question.

The reality of life is such that there are many opportunities for one to be offended by many different people through various situations. For some, family and friends would simply offer the advice of ‘just forgive and move on with your life’ in such a casual way that simply ignores the impact of the offence in one’s life, and the corresponding grief over the possibly deep, and maybe even seemingly irreversible damage done to the relationship. Yet there seems to be some benefit that can be gained through the act of forgiving others which everyone seems to have experienced at some point of time in their life. So what is forgiveness and what is it not? What are some of the benefits of forgiveness? Where can I go if I would like to seek help with forgiving someone?

So what is forgiveness and what is it not?

One definition of forgiveness by Robert Enright focuses on the reduction of the urge to retaliate against one’s offender, the release of resentment against the offender, and even the willingness to offer compassion to the offender.

Also, forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness does not have to mean reconciliation with one’s offender. Contrary to popular belief, one can still forgive without reconciling with one’s offender especially if there is no trust of the safety of being free from physical or psychological harm around one’s offender.

What are some of the benefits of forgiving others within the boundaries of safety?

It is quite well established in research that in at least one hundred studies that there is a link between forgiving others and having better physical health. These better health outcomes include a lower risk of heart disease, stronger immune systems, a better response to stress, lower blood pressure, and fewer physiological or physical symptoms overall. In addition, the research suggests similar links between forgiving another person of a single offense and better mental health outcomes like having less overall distress, stress, depression, and anxiety.

Where can I go if I would like to seek help with forgiving someone?

The Psychological Services Center (PSC) of Regent University is one place you can consider going to if you would like a Clinician to walk with you in your journey towards forgiveness. There are also well-established, research-based forgiveness protocols that can be used by a trained clinician to help you increase your level of forgiveness towards an offender, if that is what you would like, and if suitable for your unique context.

Rest assured that we will strive to understand your experience, and ensure that your autonomy and readiness to forgive is present even as we collaborate with you to ensure that you will be able to gain benefit from the forgiveness intervention before proceeding further.

For some, the act of forgiving others can be seen as religious due to the command to forgive in Christian doctrine. If it is important for you to seek help to forgive in a religiously integrated manner, it should be discussed with your clinician at the start of treatment as to what that could potentially look like for you. Clinicians at the PSC of Regent University are trained to provide religiously sensitive services.

To forgive (others) or not, that is the question.


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