In honor of spring cleaning and renewal, and holidays celebrated the world over, I thought I’d write about how important it is to forgive. When I Googled it, 9.47 million hits came up. I was surprised that the second hit was from the Mayo Clinic, a world-class health organization. (See www.mayoclinic.com.) Science has demonstrated that the body is affected by what’s going on in the mind and spirit of a person. This is what they wrote:
“Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
• healthier relationships;
• greater spiritual and psychological well-being (fancy words for feeling good);
• less anxiety, stress and hostility;
• lower blood pressure;
• fewer symptoms of depression, and
• lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse.”
That may look like a short list, but I went to the website of the Better Health Channel website at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, and I found that anger alone can cause:
• digestion problems such as abdominal pain,
• insomnia, ,
• increased anxiety
• high blood pressure,
• skin problems such as eczema ,
• heart attacks,
Both websites stated that there were social effects of not forgiving someone. If we have a bad relationship with someone, and don’t work it out, it might carry over into relationships with others. This can cause people to get into more fights, or seriously threaten others to the point where they feel they are in danger. Both of these responses are against the law. And here’s something important to know: many professional jobs require a criminal records check. If you’ve got a record, you might not be able to get that job or others that you really want. And this unhappiness can also cause depression.
We know it’s good for us, so why don’t we do it? Because we hurt, and we somehow think that the other person has betrayed us in some way, or that we’re a victim of a wrong action.
It doesn’t seem fair that we should have to forgive when the other person hurt us. In my many years, I haven’t met many people over the age of 10 who don’t think that about someone or something. We still have to make a choice:
• Do I still want to hurt, be angry, make myself sick, be crabby, be unhappy and feel like a victim?
• Or do I want to get control back of my life, and be happy again and get healthier?
Now I’ve chosen both, until I got sick and tired of the first choice and choose the second. It’s not easy, but there are 9.47 million support sites in addition to friends, family and counselors.
Byron Katie is an international teacher of something she calls “The Work.” It helped me (www.thework.com). It is a three-step process that helps you rethink the problem. It’s all on the website, but basically it is this:
1. You write down what you judged that the person did/does to you that bothers you.
2. You ask yourself four questions:
a. Is it true?
b. Are you absolutely sure it’s true? Because sometimes we think we know how another person thinks, or why they did what they did, but we haven’t checked it out.
c. What happens to you when you believe that thought? How does it make you feel in body, mind and spirit? (This is really important.)
d. How would you be different without that thought (also important)?
3. Turn the thought around to see if it teaches you something about yourself. It might help you believe the opposite of what you believed.
Let’s try it.
1. “(Mr. X isn’t nice, or he would never have done___.”
2. a. I’m not really sure it’s true. He seems nice to others.
b. It makes me feel sad when I think that he doesn’t want to be nice to me, and would hurt me on purpose.
c. If I didn’t think that, I’d be really happy around him because he’s smart and fun to be around.
3. a. He is nice to me.
b. I’m not nice to him.
c. I need to be nice to me.
If any of these last thoughts are true, and I’ve found that they are, then you’ve learned something. Psychologists have proven that we often see behavior in others that we also think is true about ourselves.
Be nice to yourself. If you need to talk to Mr. X, to take care of yourself, do so, but do it nicely. He may be clueless about how you feel, or that he was doing something that bothered you, and you got all upset for nothing.
When I was 12, my friend Bob pulled me under water by my pony tail and held me under for awhile. I came up swinging furiously. He was grinning. He thought it was great fun. I let him know in no uncertain terms that that was never going to happen again, and it never did. I forgave him, and we stayed great friends.
• The In Your Corner team comprises the leadership of the island’s government, court, police, education, family and social services communities. Contact Annaleah Atkinson with your questions or comments at email@example.com.