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Studies Prove the Power of Forgiving

We are currently moving, and that means going through all the stuff I have attached emotions to and actually getting rid of it (much to my wife’s joy). I have binders upon binders of gospel stories, poems, doctrines, and, well, anything else I thought was inspiring.

I’ve decided that the time has come to either throw it out or digitize it. So, my plan is to add as much as I can to the website. If it is already online, I will probably just link to it, but if not, I hope to share the things I find inspiring.

Below is an article on forgiveness I’ve had for 15+ years (I think). I did a search, and all I could find was a Yahoo page that only shared part of the article and then linked out to USAToday. Unfortunately, the link is dead, so I have typed it out and pasted it below.

I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness, so it is appropriate that this is my first archive article to share. This article hits home with me because I saw (particularly in one situation) that I fit the mold they are talking about here:

“…self-righteousness prevents letting bygones be bygones. Jealous people find it very hard to forgive … These are the “am I getting mine or are you getting too much of yours’ kind of people . . .”

Yeah, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I am being this way with an old friend. So, even though this isn’t a General Conference talk, hopefully, you will find some inspiration from it as well! ~Paul

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Learning to forgive can benefit the forgiver

By Marilyn Elias (USA TODAY)

SAN FRANCISCO – Forgiving others is a valuable gift for yourself, and even the most grudge-bearing people can learn how to do it, new studies suggest. Mounting evidence shows there are emotional and physical health payoffs from the act of forgiveness, says Stanford University psychologist Carl Thoresen. He spoke on a weekend panel at the American Psychological Association meeting. But forgiving doesn’t mean condoning or deciding to forget offenses, or even necessarily reconciling with offenders, he says. “It means giving up the right to be aggravated and angry, and the desire to strike back.” Thoresen’s team has developed a six-session group treatment that helps people to forgive. It emphasizes:

  • Shifting rigid personal “rules” for how people should behave to “preferences” and accepting that no adult can control another’s behavior.
  • Looking at the hurtful incident in perspective, seeing it from the other person’s point of view or at least from a neutral viewpoint.
  • Moving away from blame to acceptance, and then moving on.

A new study of 259 adults who took part in the program found that past incidents no longer stung them as badly and they felt more likely to forgive in the future, compared with a control group that didn’t participate. The positive effects remained six months later.

Those who learned to forgive also saw stress, anger and psychosomatic symptoms – headaches, stomach up-sets, etc. – go way down, significantly lower than for the control group.

Thoresen says his team has used the techniques successfully with parents of murder victims in Northern Ireland.

Writing emotional letters to hurtful people also can hasten feelings of forgiveness, says psychologist Julie Exline of Case Western University in Cleveland.

She has done studies on the comparative benefits of just writing about a painful incident, writing a letter (and not sending it) or not writing about it at all.

Verdict: The letter works best to dispel bad feelings, as long as it isn’t hostile. Letters seething, with hostility “seem to lock in the lack of forgiveness,” Exline says.

Another report on the same panel explored personal qualities that made it easy or difficult for several hundred adults to forgive others.

Empathy and a modest amount of personal guilt promote forgiveness, says George Mason University psychologist June Tangney. But self-righteousness prevents letting bygones be bygones. Jealous people find it very hard to forgive, she adds. “These are the “am I getting mine or are you getting too much of yours’ kind of people,” she says.

A forgiving nature may improve intimate relationships. Compared with people reluctant to forgive, the forgivers saw romantic partners in a more positive light and reported a more loving relationship with them, she says. Religious people are more forgiving than the non-religious, if they’re motivated by inner spiritual convictions, but not if they’re driven by the desire to be seen at church.”

And people of different religions are equally likely to forgive. “No set of religious beliefs gives one a corner on forgiveness,” Tangney says.

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