Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mind and body

Five ways to forgive yourself or others

BOB CLARK

BOB CLARK

Forgiving isn't easy, but it is good for you. According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of letting go instead of clinging to grudges include:

• Healthier relationships

• Greater spiritual and psychological well-being

• Less anxiety, stress and hostility

• Lower blood pressure

• Fewer symptoms of depression

• Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

Similarly, Harvard Women's Health Watch identifies five positive health benefits of forgiving that have been scientifically studied:

• Reduced stress

• Better heart health

• Stronger relationships

• Reduced pain

• Greater happiness

Considering all of these benefits, why would we punish ourselves by failing to forgive? George Herbert, the 17th century English poet and Anglican priest, expressed it well: "He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass."

Most of us who have struggled to forgive would agree that it is not only hard, but can seem impossible. Yet its importance has been known for centuries. The Bible talks about forgiveness many times, in both the Old and New testaments. As Jesus was dying on the cross he sought divine forgiveness for those who had just put him there.

Sometimes forgiving yourself can be the hardest.

Not long ago I got a phone call from a young man in the high Sierras. He had become immobilized by a painful case of tendonitis and been told he might have to be taken out by medical helicopter. He wanted me to pray with him. In a tearful conversation, he mentioned that he had done a really bad, unforgivable and unfixable thing recently and couldn't shake the painful regret. I asked if he thought this might be a perfect time to forgive himself. He said he couldn't. I told him he owed it to himself and the group he was with to try really, really hard.

In the morning he texted me a joyful group picture taken on a high plateau overlooking a stunningly beautiful mountain scene. His text read, "Up on a mountain doing well!!" In that case, self-forgiveness had a definite healing effect.

At the risk of perhaps trivializing the amount of effort and persistence that true forgiveness can take, but mindful of the real-life benefits that can result, I've compiled a "Top 5 Ways to Forgive" list, largely from the research of Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California Riverside, Dr. Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin and Dr. Everett Worthington of Virginia Commonwealth University.

1. Decide to forgive: This requires facing your grudge courageously rather than hiding or savoring it. Not sure you want to? Reread the benefits above.

2. Reflect on a time when you were forgiven, or imagine being forgiven for something you feel remorse about. This can help with No. 1.

3. Imagine forgiveness: Write a letter to the one who wronged you, describing how it affected you and what you wish he or she had done differently. End it by offering your forgiveness. If you have the courage, send the letter. Even better, imagine a face-to-face conversation and then go have it.

4. Commit: Emotional pain can be stubborn, but it will usually yield to persistent effort. Ask for help from a friend. Sit down and role-play the forgiveness discussion.

5. Persist: "Energy and persistence conquer all things,'' Benjamin Franklin said. Is it true? What would it hurt to find out? If you think you can't forgive now, don't give up. It can be a process that takes repeated effort. But consider that you will be a healthier person for it. And so will the person you forgive.

Bob Clark is a Christian Science practitioner from Belleair. Read his blog at simplyhealthyflorida.com.

Five ways to forgive yourself or others 10/30/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 5:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete Beach beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulf-front hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests relax on the beach near the Don Cesar at St. Pete Beach. Guests at gulf-front hotels in St. Pete Beach can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas after the change was passed unanimously by the City Commission Tuesday night. Residents and other beachgoers who are not registered guests of the hotels continue to be barred from imbibing anywhere on the city's beaches.
  2. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  3. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark

    National

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    (from left to right) Aaron Sharockman, Politifact executive director introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, Politifact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair and Tampa Bay Times Editor and Vice President Neil Brown at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The event celebrated 10 years of PolitiFact and its growth since 2007. The panel discussed the history of the organization and how it goes about fact-checking. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
  4. Trump, McConnell feud threatens GOP agenda

    Politics

    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell has fumed over Trump’s criticism.
  5. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]