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Studies show that forgiveness provides personal health benefits to the forgiven as well as to the one who forgives.

People who regularly forgive in daily life experience: 

  • fewer health problems, less stress and stress-related symptoms, less acute and chronic pain, less risk of elevated blood pressure, and living longer

  • better interpersonal relationships, increased empathy and improved conflict resolution.

A recent study stated:

"Both forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others each appear to have a robust indirect relationship with health. Between the two, forgiveness of self appears to be relatively more important for health-related outcomes." (Webb et al. 2013)


​What is the mechanism of forgiveness?

In everyday life, hardly a day goes by when you are not 'affected' in some way by the actions of someone else, or you do not 'suffer' due to natural or human causes. That 'being hit' or 'suffering' can be purely physical (you trip over a pair of shoes in the hallway and hurt your wrist), psychological (your partner always leaves his/her things lying around the house) or a combination of both. (the shoes turn out to be your partner's). In the latter case, the next step is often to blame someone or something.

Double attack

If the suffering is a combination of both physical and psychological suffering, you are dealing with a double attack; the original injury and the damage caused by psycho-emotional clinging to the injury (the question of guilt). We probably all know a situation in which you cannot let go of your injury and especially the question of guilt. You often only really recover from your injury once you have forgiven the other person ('the perpetrator').

Interestingly enough, the word 'forgiveness' comes from the Greek word 'afiemi'.  This Greek word has a whole range of similar meanings, one of which is 'to let go'. So forgiveness is essentially letting go of events.

Forgiveness is also:

  • a choice

  • the peace you learn to feel when you let go of an injury, for you and not the perpetrator

  • take back your power

  • taking responsibility for how you feel about your healing and not about the people who hurt you

  • about becoming a hero instead of a victim.

  • a step further than 'acceptance', but acceptance is already a great step

  • avoid being consumed by guilt or bitterness.


Forgiveness is not:

  • condone unkindness

  • forgetting that something painful has happened

  • excuses for bad behavior

  • deny or minimize your pain

  • necessarily reconciliation with the perpetrator

  • giving up feelings (Luskin 2002)​

“If we don't accept the truth about ourselves, we can't see it clearly, and if we don't see it clearly, we won't be able to deal with it properly.” Hanson 2018

​Research by Kristin Neff and others has shown that self-compassion makes a person more resilient, making it easier for him to get back up. It reduces self-criticism and builds self-esteem, helping you achieve your ambitions and become successful instead of complacent and lazy. Standing up for yourself and giving love and attention to your pain makes you more resilient, more capable and gives you confidence. Being good to yourself is also being good to others.

Practical tips and links:

  • Every day we wanted to achieve something. There are days when we do that. And then there are days when it doesn't work out. And while it's important to learn from your micro-mistakes, there's no point in judging yourself too harshly. Therefore, practice self-compassion before going to sleep. Research shows that people who practice self-compassion are happier. After all, there is nothing noble about going to bed mentally beat up and guilty. Say “I forgive myself” and go to bed with a clear conscience.

If you want to develop more self-compassion, take a few minutes to do the exercise below. As you build greater self-compassion, you will be able to tap into it whenever you want.


Compassion for yourself

Think back to a time when you felt that there were people, pets, or spirit beings who cared about you, in your present life or in the past. Any form of loving attention is good, for example the moments when you felt seen, appreciated, wanted or loved. Relax and open yourself to the feeling of being cared for. When you get distracted, you keep coming back to the feeling of being cared for. Stay with these feelings and feel them sink deeper into you, like water into a sponge.

Now think of one or more people for whom you feel compassion, perhaps a child who is suffering, a friend going through a divorce, or refugees on the other side of the world. Empathize with their burdens, worries and suffering. Feel a warm-hearted, friendly concern. You can possibly place a hand on your heart and let one of the following thoughts arise, for example; I hope your pain decreases... I hope you find a job... I hope you get through your illness well. Surrender yourself to compassion, let it fill you and flow through you.

Now that you know what compassion feels like, you can apply it to yourself. Do you feel stress, tiredness, illness, hurt or unhappiness. Show compassion to yourself now as you would to a friend if he or she were feeling the way you are feeling now. Realize that everyone suffers and that you are not the only one who feels pain and sadness. You can put a hand on your heart or your cheek. Depending on what happened, you may have one of the following thoughts: I hope my suffering will stop... I hope these painful feelings will pass... I hope I will worry less... .I hope I recover from my illness. Imagine compassion permeating you like a gentle spring rain, touching and comforting the messed up, hurting, longing places within you. (Hanson 2018)

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