Multiple studies, including research out of Johns Hopkins University, indicate that unresolved conflict negatively affects physical health. Conversely, forgiveness makes for a healthier body as well as mind and spirit. Forgiveness lowers the risk of diabetes and heart attack, improves cholesterol and sleep and reduces pain, blood pressure, anxiety, depression and stress.
Like it or not, the health of our human relationships very much indicate and impact other areas of our health: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Are there relationships in your life that need attention in this season?
Someone you need to reach out to, ask for forgiveness, or someone you need to forgive? Is there hurt, bitterness or even hatred you can give up in favor of forgiveness and new life this Easter season? You will be all the healthier for it.
We need not be best friends with everyone we meet. And forgiveness does not mean that what was done does not matter or is OK. That’s exactly the point of forgiveness — what has been done is NOT OK and requires something extraordinary in order for peace to be restored, both internally in our spirits and externally in relationships. We cannot control how others respond to our desire to give or receive forgiveness — we are only responsible for ourselves and the way we handle things in ourselves, with others, and with God or a spiritual power. Finally, forgiveness does not mean opening yourself up for future harm. Wisdom and caution can accompany forgiveness, sometimes appropriately so.
If we take the Gospels seriously, there may be nothing more threatening to the health of our faith than lack of forgiveness. As Christians regularly pray together, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples assumes we are forgiving those who trespass against us. God forgives us as we forgive. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus specifically says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt 6:14-15). Yikes! Christians believe we do not earn our salvation, but forgiving others is serious business. A failure to forgive makes for a heart that cannot receive forgiveness either. Notice these verses also assume that people will need forgiveness. We are imperfect people in imperfect relationships with one another, and forgiveness will be required, both in giving and in receiving.
Forgiveness is a difficult, serious thing and it helps to have support as we embrace the process of forgiveness in our own lives and relationships. I encourage you to find a supportive community of faith that helps you give and receive grace and forgiveness. If your relationship with yourself and/or with a spiritual power or presence diminishes you or causes you to wallow in guilt, that is not healthy. If there are ways we can support you as you pay attention to your relationships and the health of your spirit with regards to others, you are welcome to join us at Page Community United Methodist Church. We are not perfect and may fail you and require forgiveness as well, but we are privileged to share life and journeys of faith with one another.