Learning Forgiveness: The First Step To Healing
You would be hard-pressed to find a physician or mental health professional who does not believe in the awesome power of forgiveness. In my own practice, I have seen hundreds of women who were not only in mental anguish and emotional turmoil due to the resentment they harbored, but also in bad physical health.
A good example of this is a 52-year-old patient of mine named Louise, who had a very difficult childhood because her parents physically and emotionally abused her from the time she was a little girl.
When she came to me, she had been holding on to her resentment for decades and had started working with a therapist to learn how to let go of her negative emotions.
In our review of her medical history, I learned that Louise had a strong tendency toward bronchitis and chest colds. Not surprisingly, once she was able to let go of her negative emotions—and even find things to appreciate about her parents—her immune function dramatically improved and her episodes of bronchitis and chest colds diminished.
Forgiveness is such an unbelievably important part of your overall health that I encourage you to find ways to let go of even the little things that are weighing on your mind.
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And one of the best ways to do that is to follow the work of Fred Luskin, Ph.D., who has been researching forgiveness for many years and has written two fantastic books on the subject: Forgive for Love and Forgive for Good. Even though it is a secular book the findings corroborate what we already know from scripture.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
According to Dr. Luskin, there are several benefits—both physical and mental—of forgiveness.
First, he says that when you don't forgive, you get stuck in the past. So, psychologically speaking, it is comforting and freeing for people to realize that they can cope with whatever upset them and caused them to harbor resentment.
Second, Dr. Luskin believes that when you start taking control of and responsibility for your emotions, you build character and become a stronger person.
Finally, anger, depression, stress, and other negative emotions that come with holding grudges can have a huge impact on cardiovascular, neurological, and overall physical health—as was the case with my patient Louise.
So for these reasons and many others, Dr. Luskin shows people how to master the art of forgiveness.
Drawing on years of research, Dr. Luskin developed a specific method to help people explore forgiveness with the goal of reducing pain, helplessness, and anger so that they get to the point where they are able to truly forgive those who have wronged them.
Among other techniques, it entails journaling, frank discussions, and guided imagery and visualization. Using his method, you learn how to talk more directly about the things that have hurt you.
So, the big question is, how do you know when you have truly forgiven someone?
Dr. Luskin says that you have reached the point of real forgiveness when you can once again talk about what happened. or about the person who harmed you, and you are able to stay cool and in control, and you no longer experience the intense charge that kept you "imprisoned" in the past.
To learn more about Dr. Luskin and his work, visit www.learningtoforgive.corn. I also encourage you to read one or both of his books, which are available at most major book retailers.
Of course the Bible says it best: Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Forgive for Love is geared toward forgiveness in intimate relationships, while Forgive for Good is useful in all life situations. ■
Here are a few more Bible verses to meditate on to help you forgive and let go so YOU can be healthier!
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sisters sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17: 3-4
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1: 18
The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; Daniel 9:9
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