“Being forgiving to yourself and others can protect against stress and the toll it takes on mental health, according to and new study in the Journal of Health Psychology.
Researchers looked at the effects of lifetime stress on a person’s mental health, and how more forgiving people fared compared to people who weren’t so forgiving.
The more highly forgiving you are, both of yourself and others, the more you can reduce the connection between stress and mental illness. In fact, being a highly forgiving person can eliminate the connection all together.
“It’s almost entirely erased—it’s statistically zero,” says study author Loren Toussaint, an associate professor of psychology at Luther College in Iowa. “If you don’t have forgiving tendencies, you feel the raw effects of stress in an unmitigated way. You don’t have a buffer against that stress.”
“How a forgiving personality protects a person from the ills of severe stress is hard to determine. The researchers speculate that people who are more forgiving may adopt better coping skills to deal with stress, or their reaction to major stressors may be dulled.”
Toussaint believes “100%” that forgiveness can be learned. His own prior research has shown that saying a short prayer or a brief meditation on forgiveness can help people take the edge off. “Forgiveness takes that bad connection between stress and mental illness and makes it zero,” he says. “I think most people want to feel good and [forgiveness] offers you the opportunity to do that.”
Researchers are just catching up with the Bible, which has offered the peace and blessing of forgiveness for millennia. They still have a ways to go. It is God that protects the mind from illness. He has given us the capacity to forgive which brings the peace and blessing of God upon the soul. It then brings health and strength to the mind.
Nature Knows Best!