In the minds of far too many
people forgiveness seems to be an ugly, despicable beast that
one must be afraid of or avoid at all costs. This “beast” is
scorned and ridiculed because of unrequited anger, hatred and
vengeance that have built up in the hearts of individuals. We
would have far less murders, robberies, divorces, rapes,
molestations, etc, in our country, if people would just allow
themselves to forgive. In the minds of these angry people,
forgiveness must be transformed from an ugly beast to a gentle
Some people are afraid to forgive
because they believe forgiveness would require them to
communicate or reconcile with those who caused them pain.
There are some who would not forgive because they have become
poisoned over the years by the anger and pain leaving only
revenge and hatred. They have allowed the pain and anger to
distort their thinking and reasoning process. In their minds,
the anger provides power and protection for their wounded heart.
I believe that far too many
people misunderstand what forgiveness is all about. In a
previous article on forgiveness I wrote that “forgiveness is not
trying to ignore an incident. That’s indifference. Saying,
"Let’s just forget it," without offering a basis for forgetting
is not to a way to deal with the problem. It is ignoring the
problem. Forgiveness is not indifference. Forgiveness is also
not agreeing with the wrong. Some people think saying, " I
forgive you" really means "I agree with you. What you have done
isn’t wrong". That’s not the case.
Furthermore, forgiveness is not
reconciliation. Forgiveness can facilitate reconciliation but
it does not require it. Sometimes it is not wise to reconcile
or to restore the relationship to its original state before the
pain occurred. If reconciliation is “required,” then it would
not be true forgiveness. It is my view that true forgiveness
frees the hurting one to think objectively what should be the
next step to take. Should I move away or should I get closer?
Should I end the relationship or should it be mended? For a
person who has been severely abused over many years, restoring
the relationship to its original state might lead to death,
hospitalization, mental illness, or prison. There are many
wounded people who are still in love with their perpetrators,
but they wisely decide not to reconnect because it would truly
be dangerous to them.
Refusing to forgive and harboring
anger and pain is very detrimental to the human body. It
suppresses the immune system making the individuals susceptible
to diseases. Anger causes an increase of chemicals in the body
that should they remain elevated would be harmful.
In an article on Better Health
Channel, it states that “the constant flood of stress chemicals
and associated metabolic changes that accompany recurrent
unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different
systems of the body. Some of the short and long-term health
problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include:
headache, digestion problems, such as abdominal pain; insomnia,
"Some people are afraid to forgive because
they believe forgiveness would require them
to communicate or reconcile with those who
caused them pain."
depression, high blood pressure; skin
problems, such as eczema; heart attack, and stroke. Many
married couples who argue and fight a lot are causing more
physical harm to themselves than blows and cuts. Ohio State
University's Institute for Behavioral Medicine research on the
effect of anger reveals that women are impacted in very serious
ways. “. . . Even after husbands and wives have stopped
arguing, the battle may still be raging within the woman's body.
It can do so for hours, altering her hormone levels and
weakening her immune system to the point where illness could
gain a foothold. . . . Blood analysis showed that among women
who reacted negatively to their husbands' withdrawal during the
arguments, the average levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine,
cortisol and prolactin all rose. The more negative the wife's
response and her husband's withdrawal, the greater the rise of
the levels of the hormones. If those hormones levels stay up
long enough, they can have immune consequences," explained
Ronald Glaser, professor of medical microbiology and
Far too many religious leaders
heap loads of guilt on hurting people if they do not reconcile
with their perpetrators; particularly spouses who have been
abused by their partners. Some spouses have been taught that
they are to endure, in spite of the pain. They say that is true
love. They must stay even after contracting a sexually
transmitted infection or having been hospitalized due to wounds
from the perpetrator. These religious leaders have forgotten
the Apostle Paul’s admonition which is “If it is possible, as
far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans
12:18) The phrase “as far as possible” suggests that it is not
always possible to have peace with everyone but you must do your
best to do so. When you have done all you can and peace is
impossible to attain, move on. Yes, move on with your life
without the one who is causing pain.
Let us learn how to forgive.
Our country would be better for it.
Barrington Brennen is a marriage
and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to P.O.
Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas; or call 1-242-327-1980, or
email email@example.com or visit