India Arie couldn’t have sung it better: “And now your chest burns and your back aches/from 15 years of holding the pain,” she sang on “Get It Together” from her second studio album Voyage to India that was released in 2002. On that song, the soul singer beautifully sang about healing the body and heart through forgiveness. I couldn’t help but to continuously press play on it the other day as I sat and thought about how, at 26-years-old, I have finally forgiven my father for everything that he did and did not do.
My father and I never truly had a relationship throughout my childhood. Even today, it is very minute. It’s nowhere near what I would like it to be, but I am grateful and happy to have a father that calls to see how I am doing. Sometimes, he calls just to say hi and at this point in my life that’s good enough for me. I’ve finally accepted the good, the bad, and the ugly — and I feel great. It feels as if a pound of bricks have been lifted off of my shoulders.
A year and a half ago, during my grandmother’s funeral, my father apologized to me and attempted to make amends, but I was unable to accept his apology. I felt like it wasn’t the right time nor the right place, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I was deeply hurting and very rancorous. During that particular time in my life and previously, forgiveness felt like a tremendous chore. I don’t know why I’m able to forgive now, but I’m glad that I am.
Forgiveness isn’t easy and it can definitely take time but it’s worth it. There have been many studies done to prove it.
Many may view forgiveness as some sort of religious virtue and a way to have good karma, but it’s actually beneficial to your health. Various studies show that people who scored high on forgiveness scales experience fewer health complications, less stress and stress-related symptoms, decreased acute pain and chronic pain.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found forgiveness was connected with exceeding self-reported mental and physical health. This was found true especially for adults over 45. The respondents who reported higher levels of forgiveness were more satisfied with their lives and less likely to experience symptoms of psychological distress, such as nervousness, restlessness, sadness and anger.
According to a study done by the Journal of Behavioral Medicine forgiveness is good for your heart. The study found that forgiveness is associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief, which can bring long-term health benefits for your heart and overall health. Researchers at the University of Tennessee found that concealing anger and resentment tends to increase blood pressure. Drs. Warren Jones and Kathleen Lawler from the Univ. of Tennessee found that forgiving seems to have comprehensive cardiovascular benefits.
Overall, forgiveness can lead to the following:
- 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
- Deep healing