Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If forgiveness is good for you -- is it a virtue?

When I first saw the Chinese symbol for forgiveness, I was saw a face smiling with tears... What do you see?

If you visit the Mayo Clinic's website on forgiveness, you'll find the following..."Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness
When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.

What is forgiveness?
A decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge...Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?  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 

Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation? If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn't always the case, however. Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you or to change. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn't. "

Melissa Healy, a writer for the LA Times, wrote a very interesting s article several years ago entitled 
Forgive and Be WellI found it to be an interesting essay on forgiveness science and proven health benefits.
 "Everett Worthington, a professor of psychology at Commonwealth Virginia University and a leading researcher on the links between forgiveness and health, has put many a study subject through the paces of pardoning and measured the resulting physiological effect.
"We are limited in what we can conclude," Worthington acknowledges. As a means of diffusing stress and its negative health effects, finding a way out of anger and resentment clearly yields benefits, he says. But it's not so clear that developing good feelings for your transgressor -- the standard many of those conducting forgiveness research embrace -- will enhance health. 'It's a lot easier to document the reduction in bad effects than to document the increase in good effects,' he says."
I was recently challenged with the following question: if forgiving is proven to be good for the health of the person who is doing the forgiving, does that make the act of forgiveness less altruistic?  Is it any less of a virtue if you get something in return?  Hmm.  I'm gonna need to think on that one a while...  What do you think?