My common sense says that the anger, resentment and blame that many people hold on to, often for years, account for a lot of health problems, and learning how to forgive could prove to be curative and preventative.
“Forgiving and releasing old hurts from your system is like taking a mental and emotional bath,” says HeartMath founder and stress researcher Doc Childre. “Notice how people bathe their bodies on a regular basis, yet they will store negative, toxic junk in their mental and emotional natures for years without a cleanup.”
Negative emotions, such as anger, resentment and blame, can cause stress to build up in the body; where there is excessive stress, there is the potential for all sorts of physical, mental and emotional problems. Most notably, elevated stress levels can impair the body’s immune system, putting you at risk for heart disease, chronic pain and depression, among many other debilitating conditions.
A Philadelphia-based nonprofit believes the failure to forgive, what it calls “unforgiveness,” is a major problem in the world today. “We believe that unforgiveness is one of the most destructive problems of our day,” the organization, Release!, states “Unforgiveness can ruin our relationships, rob us of our happiness, and even impact our physical health. Unfortunately, unforgiveness is also one of the problems that is most likely to be ignored and dismissed.
“It is a problem, however, that people have the power to solve, by learning to forgive,” Doc Childre said, stressing that, “it is not something you can learn overnight.”
I have found in my life that to forgive, people need to dislodge their judgments, even before they fully understand why things happened. But most people want to understand why someone “wronged” them before they forgive. It’s a Catch-22 situation. This is what makes forgiveness so difficult and why people so often fail at it. After a while it seems easier to live in a state of pout, disdain, or resentment than to try the forgiveness process again.
But we can’t approach forgiveness as some sort of obligation. Forgiveness as an act of duty is not effective. It can leave you feeling as if you’ve done some good, but can mask over the resentment, rather than release it. Telling yourself, “I know I should forgive,” is not the same as forgiving. If there is no genuine feeling behind it, then your forgiveness lacks the sincere heart intent and commitment to release someone cleanly at mental, emotional, and cellular levels.
Nor can we approach forgiveness with the attitude of doing someone a favor. It’s important to remember that you’re the one who comes out the most by releasing the emotional baggage. Forgiveness upgrades your mental, emotional and physical well-being by reducing the neurochemicals that drain and debilitate your system.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain
The following exercise created by Doc Childre can help you discover a deeper level of your heart power, where feelings such as compassion, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness reside.
- Think of a person or situation you have resented and want to forgive completely.
- Send all of the thoughts and emotions that come up in your head about the person or situation – “this includes past associations, memories, anger, hurt, resentments, etc.” – gently to the heart. As often as these thoughts or feelings pop up in your head again, simply send them to your heart, which is the clearinghouse for your emotions.
- At the same time, try to feel and send heart energy, love, compassion and forgiveness to the person or situation.
Special Notes about the Exercise:
You may have to practice this exercise a few times to bring the old head thoughts under heart management. With heart management, you are actually contacting a different level of intelligence within, known as heart intelligence. Heart intelligence has the power to quickly release old resentments and hurts, change your perceptions and bring you to a satisfying understanding of the situation.
Forgiving yourself can be the hardest thing to do. Often people feel that they must remember their wrongdoings and beat themselves up for it, or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true.
Often people feel that they are doing “good” by sustaining self-guilt. This is not true and creates a steady running stress deficit within their system. As you practice forgiveness from the heart, not just the mind, you clear the energy drains and reset your system for a fresh start. Sustaining guilt translates into increased aging which moves fast enough on its own.
It’s understandable that it’s hard to forgive yourself or others at times, yet practicing this exercise and making a genuine effort to do so from the heart really can help things work out better for all concerned. I’ve found this to be true in my life and would love to hear your stories of forgiveness.