A friend of mine and I were having a discussion last week and the topic of forgiveness came up. She suggested that maybe there was a link between forgiveness and our mental health. She challenged me and proposed that I create a list of people I need to forgive as a well as those who I thought I have forgiven, but deep inside I haven’t. As I pondered her idea, I thought maybe there is some truth in her suggestion.
I did some research and came across an article from the American Psychological Association that indicated forgiveness not only had a body connection, but a strong mind connection. Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders. I will take this a step further and say that forgiveness also has a spiritual connection.
You are probably wondering, did he make the list? and yes, I did. It was uncomfortable, and my heart felt heavy as I recalled situations from my past. I even went as far as to question not only whether I could forgive them but whether I wanted to forgive certain people despite knowing I needed to. I had to humble myself and remember that with his unconditional love, God has forgiven me, so who am I to hold something against another person?
Some names on my list didn’t come as a surprise and there were a few that did. I will admit the name that was at the very top of the list was my own. I realized after all of this if I was going to go through the painful task of forgiving those who have slighted me in the past, I also needed to step up and forgive myself.
“Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behaviour. Forgiveness prevents their behaviour from destroying your heart.” – Unknown
We may need to understand that forgiveness doesn’t excuse the other person for what they did but what it does, and what I am learning it does, is release us. And as the article suggested, “Forgiveness happens inside [our] skin” and that in itself is a powerful and thought-provoking statement.
Without forgiveness we remain bound. I want to encourage you, as my friend has encouraged me, to take a look at the people in our lives that have done us wrong and take one of the biggest leaps we may have to make in our lives and forgive them. Not because they deserve our forgiveness, but because we deserve peace.