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July-August 2014 - CHOOSE to Cultivate Forgiveness
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FACT: After analyzing data from the Religion, Aging and Health Survey of 1200 people over the age of 25, researchers found that an attitude of forgiveness towards others is associated with a decreased risk for all-cause mortality. 1
HOPE: Forgiveness not only benefits the one forgiven, but also it may contribute to longevity for those who forgive.

FACT: In a study of young, middle aged and older adults, forgiving oneself was associated with less psychological distress such as feeling nervous, restless, hopeless, worthless being sad compared to those with low levels of self-forgiveness. However, this benefit was stronger for older adults (>65 years old) than younger ones (<45 years old).2 
HOPE: It seems as one ages, one becomes more accepting of one’s own faults, and less critical of oneself. But it does not need to be that. We can start practicing self-forgiveness at any age and parents can help even young kids to allow room for not being perfect all the time. That may translate in less psychological distress to people at a younger age.

FACT: In a study of over 10,000 Seventh-Day Adventists with a history of child abuse, neglect or witnessed abuse, those who more frequently offered forgiveness towards others who offended them had better reported mental health than those with who forgave offenders less frequently.3 
HOPE: By following the Bible counsel that of “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 – NKJV) will lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

FACT: Researchers studying forgiveness note that forgiveness is different from condoning or excusing the offender, reconciling with them, or forgetting the hurtful deed. Instead, forgiveness is defined by researchers as “giving up one’s right to retribution and releasing or letting go of negative feelings directed toward the offender.”4
HOPE: Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another.  But in holding grudges, we may be the one who pays most dearly in higher levels of anxiety, hypertension, depression, substance abuse and more. When one forgives one may never forget what happened, and reconciliation, although ideal, may not be possible in some cases. That is ok. The benefits are still real no matter what. Why not embrace God’s forgiveness in your life today and offer this gift to others?

References:
  1. Toussaint, L., Owen, A. & Cheadle, A. (2012). Forgive to live: Forgiveness, health, and longevity. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35(4), 375-86.
  2. Reinert, K. et al (in submission). The role of religious involvement in the health outcomes of Adventist Adults Survivors of Early Traumatic Stress. Journal of Health Psychology.  
  3. Baskin, T.W., Enright, R.D. (2004). Intervention studies on forgiveness: A meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling and Development. 82. 79-90.
  4. Toussaint et al (2001). Forgiveness and health: Age differences in a US. probability sample. Journal of Adult Development, 8(4), 249-257.

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