Tough Love

"Love in the real world means saying you're sorry 10 times a day." 
Kathie Lee Gifford

February is the month that we celebrate love, particularly the romantic sort. Flowers and cards and chocolates are given and and received as tokens of affection. What a wonderful tradition! Love is one of the most profound emotions we human beings experience, and love of all varieties should be celebrated. But let’s be honest, no one always has loving feelings towards their nearest and dearest.  Over time the wear and tear of every day life can result in even the most committed of couples or friends feeling more resentment towards their loved ones than affection. If that is the case, what is the place of forgiveness in our lives? How does holding onto resentment and anger impact not only our relationship health but also our personal health and wellbeing?

Experts who study forgiveness agree that it is one of the most significant contributors to healthy relationships. Couples who regularly forgive each other, studies show, have more satisfying and longer lasting romantic bonds. Beyond relationship health, those who regularly practice unconditional forgiveness are more likely to live longer than people who keep grudges. 

Health experts assert that forgiveness brings a multitude of health benefits besides improving our connection to loved ones. Research shows that forgiveness not only enhances relationships, it results in:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being 

That’s quite a list of physical benefits; it seems that negative emotions don’t only weigh down relationships, they also place a load on the body.

“A state of unforgiveness is like carrying a heavy burden — a burden that victims bring with them when they navigate the physical world,” states the Mayo Clinic website, www.mayoclinic.org. “Forgiveness can lighten this burden.”

“If you don't practice forgiveness,” the website continues, “you might be the one who pays most dearly.” 

Holding a grudge, the research shows, can result in the inability to enjoy the present, anger and bitterness creeping into all your relationships and life experience, as well as more chance of experiencing depression and anxiety. 

How do you make forgiveness a more regular part of your life? Experts tell us that forgiveness is a choice. You can decide to offer compassion and empathy to the person whom you feel wronged you. Here are some steps to help you reach that place of forgiveness:

Let go of expectations; no one is perfect, not your loved one nor you.
Once you’ve decided to forgive, take action. Speak or write to the person you are forgiving. You may choose to write a letter to them that you don’t send, or speak to a trusted third party.
Don’t forget to forgive yourself, if that is necessary.

"It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody."
Maya Angelou