By Kirsten Weir
The Monitor on Psychology
January 2017, Vol 48, No. 1
Print version: page 30
Here is an excerpt:
One common but mistaken belief is that forgiveness means letting the person who hurt you off the hook. Yet forgiveness is not the same as justice, nor does it require reconciliation, Worthington explains. A former victim of abuse shouldn't reconcile with an abuser who remains potentially dangerous, for example. But the victim can still come to a place of empathy and understanding. "Whether I forgive or don't forgive isn't going to affect whether justice is done," Worthington says. "Forgiveness happens inside my skin."
Another misconception is that forgiving someone is a sign of weakness. "To that I say, well, the person must not have tried it," says Worthington.
And there may be very good reasons to make the effort. Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates. In fact, researchers have amassed enough evidence of the benefits of forgiveness to fill a book; Toussaint, Worthington and David R. Williams, PhD, edited a 2015 book, "Forgiveness and Health," that detailed the physical and psychological benefits.
Toussaint and Worthington suggest that stress relief is probably the chief factor connecting forgiveness and well-being. "We know chronic stress is bad for our health," Toussaint says. "Forgiveness allows you to let go of the chronic interpersonal stressors that cause us undue burden."
While stress relief is important, Enright believes there are other important mechanisms by which forgiveness works its magic. One of those, he suggests, is "toxic" anger. "There's nothing wrong with healthy anger, but when anger is very deep and long lasting, it can do a number on us systemically," he says. "When you get rid of anger, your muscles relax, you're less anxious, you have more energy, your immune system can strengthen."
The article is here.