Why Be Forgiving?

“SCIENTISTS have launched research that has begun to demonstrate that forgiveness can positively enhance emotional—and, quite possibly, physical—health,” reports The Toronto Star of Canada. Yet, Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University, U.S.A., lead researcher for the Stanford Forgiveness Project, notes that there are “very few people who understand what forgiveness is and how it works.”

Genuine forgiveness is considered a vital aspect of Christianity. The Toronto Star report defines it as “recognizing you have been wronged, giving up all resulting resentment, and eventually responding to the offending person with compassion and even love.” It must be differentiated from condoning, excusing, forgetting, or denying an offense; nor does it mean putting yourself back into an abusive situation. The report says that the key to true forgiveness is “letting go of anger and negative feelings.”

Researchers say that more study into the physical benefits of forgiveness is needed. However, they do report psychological benefits, including “less stress, anxiety and depression.”

A noble reason for being forgiving is expressed at Ephesians 4:32, which says: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” When it comes to forgiveness, as in other respects, we are urged to become imitators of God.—Ephesians 5:1.

Refusing to forgive others when there is a basis for mercy can adversely affect our own relationship with God. Jehovah expects us to forgive one another. Then we can pray that he will forgive us.—Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25; 1 John 4:11.