Forgiving and being forgiven can impact not only your own health but the quality of your relationships.

By: Family - Relationships - 11/15/2018

Forgiveness has been studied for many years in an attempt to discover what it means to people, how it impacts their relationships, and how it influences individuals.  Studies suggest:

  • Inability to ask to be forgiven for wrongdoings or mistakes is connected to longstanding resentment, anger, self-punishment, paranoia, and being past-oriented.

  • People who actively seek forgiveness tend to be more concerned with the future, more agreeable, and are more willing to forgive others.

How you define forgiveness matters too.  First define forgiveness for yourself, and then share your definition with your partner.  Forgiveness can mean different things to different people, so it’s important for couples to understand what it means to each partner.  A common definition
of forgiveness is the release of negative feelings, anger and resentment, that does not condone the offense or mistake that caused the insult.

Most people don’t see seeking or granting forgiveness as a weakness.  There’s also strong agreement that forgiving someone doesn’t excuse or justify the hurtful behavior.  It’s likely that both the forgiver and the person seeking forgiveness will benefit from the granting of
forgiveness.  Forgiveness can have a positive impact on your relationship, your spirit, and your physiology.  Studies show that both men and women are equally forgiving, and age doesn’t predict how forgiving a person is.

Some scholars suggest that forgiveness is the cornerstone of a successful marriage.  Forgiveness in marriage is needed when the standards and expectations of the relationship are breached.  Breaches run the gamut from minor, but still requiring forgiveness, to major.  If there is an expectation of honesty in a relationship, then lies and deceit are a breach that generates a need for forgiveness.  If monogamy is expected, and the breach is infidelity, forgiveness comes into play. If open communication is the expectation, then being closed off, withdrawn, and
unresponsive to your partner’s attempts to talk create a breach that requires forgiveness.

Granting forgiveness goes beyond enabling the relationship to progress.  It also might have health benefits for those involved.  Becoming more forgiving has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, and forgiveness prompts positive emotions.

The science of forgiveness strongly suggests there are benefits for all parties involved. So...

  • Think about your own definition of forgiveness

  • Share your definition with your partner

  • Assess how forgiving you are

  • Determine your openness to forgive anyone you feel wronged you

  • Consider how willing you are to seek forgiveness for your own wrong-doings or mistakes

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