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We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King Jr.
What is forgiveness?
Though it can be defined in different ways, forgiveness is usually described (link is external) as "the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well." Despite being a common theme in theology, sociology, and law, there has also been a large number of research studies looking at the psychological value of forgiveness. Whether this involves our forgiving ourselves, forgiving someone else, or being forgiven, the impact that forgiveness can have on personal relationships and emotional health can be profound.
According to a 2012 study looking at a national sample of more than 1200 older Americans (link is external), conditional forgiveness of others emerged as a significant predictor of longevity. In other words, failing to forgive other people may well be considered a health risk. Forgiveness can also play a strong role in family relationships (link is external) and the physical health of family members.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.
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