Forgiveness: Spring Cleaning for the Soul
It’s Spring! Time to clean out those closets, vacuum under the rugs and take a broom to the garage. Spring is also a fine time to clear our hearts of dusty grudges and outmoded resentments. It’s the season for forgiveness—a Spring cleaning for the soul!
Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release resentment, anger and all thoughts of vengeance toward a person or group that has wronged us. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. We’re worth it. We forgive others to gain peace for ourselves.
In choosing forgiveness we don’t deny we were hurt. We don’t minimize the hurt, and we don’t condone the act that hurt us.
It’s painful when someone harms us, especially when they refuse to admit it, let alone apologize. But the alternative to forgiveness is resentment, and resentment festers. Harboring a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, and we all know how well that works (it doesn’t).
As the inspirational author, Catherine Ponder, wrote: “When you hold a resentment toward another, you are bound to that person by an emotional link stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
If we want to be free—and we do, right?—we need to get serious about forgiveness. Not to be holy, but to be healthy.
The Mayo Clinic calls forgiveness an essential component of good health. Among the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of forgiveness are:
- Lower blood pressure
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Decreased depression, stress and anxiety
- Healthier relationships
- Greater psychological and spiritual well-being
We forgive to ensure our own health and happiness. Oscar Wilde offers an additional benefit: “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.”
Forgiveness gets better as we grow older. According to a recent survey (Luther College, Iowa) the physical benefits of forgiveness actually increase with age. The survey of middle-aged and older Americans found a significant link between active forgiveness and positive health. Respondents over 45 years old who had forgiven others reported fewer symptoms of physical distress (such as anxiety and sadness) and greater feelings of life satisfaction. Now that’s motivating!
Sometimes we’re the ones who need forgiveness. We can seek forgiveness by making an honest admission of the harm done, asking how we can remedy the situation, and making that amends to the best of our ability. Humility and sincerity are key. And sometimes we need to forgive ourselves, which can be the trickiest of all. In recognizing where we fall short, we gain compassion for the shortcomings of others. Empathy expands our life experience, if not our life span.
The fact is, the world is full of kind, loving, generous people.
Rather than looking for milk in the hardware store, we can seek love from people who have love to give. When we actively look for beauty, we are certain to find it.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
We are all so worth it!