It doesn’t make a lot of sense: someone has hurt you, and if you let go of your anger and forgive them, it helps you?
The answer is simply and unequivocally, yes.
Forgiveness is part of the ethical ideals of the Judeo-Christian and most religious traditions. The Lord’s Prayer requests the petitioner to ask for forgiveness “as we forgive others.” The great Mahatma Gandhi, who practiced Hinduism, warned, “If we practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless.”
Forgiveness is more than an ideal of organized religion. Psychologists and neurologists have investigated this topic and documented that the act of forgiveness is healthful for the forgiver. On PubMed, the National Library of Medicine’s website (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi ), there are nearly 100 scientific studies showing the healing power of forgiveness.
From the earliest 1969 study titled “Morality, guilt, and forgiveness in psychotherapy” to the June 2006 study called “Effects of a group forgiveness intervention on forgiveness, perceived stress, and trait-anger,” researchers have found that forgiveness has important health benefits for the forgiver.
We need to be very clear about what forgiveness is not. It is not condoning the behavior that hurt you. It is not saying to the offender that what they did was okay after all. In many cases, the forgiver needn’t confront the offender in order to forgive. Forgiveness, according to Pastor Randall Worley, is not an emotion; it’s a decision. It is letting go of hurt and moving on.
What Happens When We Forgive?
A. J. Clark of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona described the biological and neurological components of forgiveness:
+ Memories of the hurtful act arouse fear stemming from the amygdala (the memory center for fear and trauma).
+ This fear drives a pattern of anger and fight-or-flight readiness (cortisol release).
+ Under appropriate circumstances, the frontal cortex interrupts the pattern and quells the fear response in the amygdala.
+ The resultant relaxation of muscular tension signals the cortex that forgiveness has occurred.
+ The memory pathway from the rhinal cortex and hippocampus to the amygdala is inhibited.
+ A tangible act confirms that the memories no longer stimulate the amygdala and the pattern of anger and stress does not recur.1
Psychologists have developed the Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS) so they can track the positive effects of forgiving. People who forgive experienced the four components of psychological well-being.2 People who didn’t forgive experienced lack of trust, feelings of vengeance, and hostility. Yet another study showed that people with high levels of forgiveness and frequency of prayer had lower cortisol responses. 3 Cortisol is the stress hormone that can wreak havoc in the body when found in excess.
Using Plant Remedies for Forgiveness
While researchers look at brain function to see the effects of forgiveness, we need to learn what to do to forgive someone.
This is a process that is enhanced greatly by the use of essential oils. Inhaling Young Living’s essential oils, such as Forgiveness, has a direct influence on the brain because the sense of smell is the only sense directly wired to the brain. Olfactory nerves transport the aroma of essential oils to the limbic system and the olfactory sensory center at the base of the brain. The impulses are passed next between the pituitary and pineal gland and move to the amygdala, which is the memory center for fear and trauma. Healing and forgiveness can then take place.
The following is one suggestion on working through a hurtful act to let go and experience the healing powers of forgiveness.
RELEASE Bring up the memory of the hurtful act and then inhale the essential oil blend Release™.
GROUNDING As the memory rises to the surface of your mind, apply the blend Grounding™ to the back of the neck and on the temples.
FORGIVENESS Quietly tell yourself that you are forgiving this person and letting go of the hurt. While saying this, inhale deeply the blend Forgiveness™.
JOY Inhale the blend Joy™ and know that you have released all anger and hurt, and are now allowing yourself to feel happiness.
PEACE & CALMING When you go to bed that night, apply Peace & Calming® to the bottom of your feet and tell yourself you have done a wonderful thing!
In some cases, it is necessary to tell the person who hurt you that you forgive them. In other cases, it is safer to stay away from the offender. Either way, forgiveness is freeing and healing.
Have you considered that you might need to forgive yourself? We are often harder on ourselves than we are on others. Be kind to yourself!
Lewis B. Smedes has written extensively on forgiveness, saying, “When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive.”
He wisely concluded: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner was you.”[toggle title=”Notes”] 1. A. J. Clark, “Forgiveness: a neurological model,” Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(4):649-54.
2. L. Y. Thompson, et al., “Dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations,” J Pers. 2005 Apr;73(2):313-59.
3. J. Tartaro, et al., “Exploring heart and soul: effects of religiosity/spirituality and gender on blood pressure and cortisol stress responses,” JHealth Psychol. 2005 Nov;10(6):753-66.[/toggle] Reprinted with permission of Young Living, Lehi, UT 84043