There is an “easy” way to improve our health that does not require dieting or exercise. I put “easy” in quotes because although it is as simple as uttering a few words, many of us find this very thing almost impossible to do. And yet failing to do so is probably having a very negative effect on our health. That simple thing that we must all do to improve our health is to FORGIVE those that have wronged us.
The Science Behind Forgiveness and Health
This Mayo Clinic website lists lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system as benefits for forgiving. That is in addition to other benefits such as having higher self-esteem and reduced symptoms of depression. We can easily see how forgiving others will reduce symptoms of depression, but we wouldn’t necessarily make the connection to the immune system. And yet that is indeed the case. Studies have shown that the inability to forgive may do just that; it negatively affects the production of important hormones and disrupts the way cells fight off infections and bacteria. The benefits do not stop there. There appears to be a plethora of studies (see further reading below for a sample) that link forgiveness to various health benefits:
- Reduced blood pressure and improved cardiovascular function
- Reduction in headaches
- Improved immune function
- Reduction in back pain
- Increased incidence of cancer remission
Forgiveness Is Important for More Than Just Our Spiritual Growth
At church service, we have all heard our pastors tell us that we should forgive one another. They may have even taken us to the record in Matthew 18:2 where Jesus instructs Peter that we should forgive someone 70 times seven times. The Bible is clear that God has asked us to forgive one another and it is also clear that there really is no limit on the number of times to forgive. We know that is crucial for spiritual maturity and growth but also for our health. (To read about the importance of forgiveness in relationships, read “How to Restore a Mother-Daughter Relationship”.)
As I meditate on verses on forgiveness I am drawn to Hebrews 12:14-15 which tells us, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” When we fail to forgive we become bitter and Hebrews clearly warns us against it, but what does it mean to become defiled? As I read the scientific literature on how bitterness affects the body’s ability to function correctly, it makes me wonder if what Hebrews is actually telling us is that by failing to forgive, we are corrupting our own bodies. Just food for thought.
What I do know for sure is that God has asked us to forgive one another. Live in peace and forgive those that have wronged you and in the process you may even see amazing improvements in your health (but you may still have to eat your vegetables).
I am interested in your stories, thoughts, and comments! Share them below!
Forgiveness can improve immune function
The impact of forgiveness on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery
Psycho-oncology: Discover how stress causes cancer and how to heal within
Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health:
Anger and Cancer: Is there a Relationship?
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