This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness and non-violence. I often hold on to contempt because I think it will give me control. “If I hold onto to this anger, I will show the offender that their words or actions were so disgusting that they deserve my wrath–I am in control.” This is a lie I tell myself. What actually happens is that the “offenders” negative actions or words gain control over me. The resentment that stirs in my heart does not serve me but eats at me–makes me bitter, depressed, ugly. All I can think about is how angry I am with the person. I feel my heart rate increase and my chest tighten up just thinking about them. I am in bondage to contempt. Conversely, forgiveness frees me. It allows me to move past anger, bitterness, depression, self pity and on to better, more life giving things.
Forgiveness is not denying that someone hurt you or even having to trust that person with your emotional or physical safety. It is letting go of those negative feelings of resentment for the offender. It’s recognizing their humanity and refraining from demonizing the perpetrator. Demonizing or dehumanizing is a slippery slope. Forgiveness is about freeing yourself, not about avoiding justice. Many studies have been done to examine the physiological and psychological benefits of forgiveness. Some of these benefits include:
- healthier relationships
- greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- less stress and hostility
- lower blood pressure
- fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain
- lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse.
In a world where violence is usually responded to with more violence, these “forgivers” and peace seekers may be labeled as weak. But what really takes more strength? To hate someone who has wronged you is easy. Forgiveness is by far the more difficult choice.