Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TO ERR IS HUMAN; TO FORGIVE, DIVINE

“TO ERR IS HUMAN; TO FORGIVE, DIVINE”
--Alexander Pope

            I have been doing a little research on the role forgiveness has on healing. Ironically, I found more material on the internet from secular sources such as the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints), and Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism than I did from mainline Christian groups (exception, Matthew West: see link to right). This struck me as peculiar since Jesus lived a life forgiving people, not only from sins they committed against God but also against himself: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). From a medical standpoint, I will use sources such as the Luskin article in the AMSA link above.

There are several health benefits to true forgiveness. These include decreased anger and negative thoughts, decreased anxiety, decreased depression and grief, and decreased vulnerability to substance abuse. The latter includes alcohol and in some cases, nicotine abuse. Do a self-experiment: remember a time when someone said or did something to you that you consider a “sin” against you. It can be real or imagined: imagined sins, as NLP has taught us, feel real to us (as an important aside, I have coined a new word “mangole” which is the ability take what someone has said that was meant to be positive or at the best neutral, and twist it around until it becomes negative and destructive to that person’s peace of mind. As in “I told her to let him describe it for me but she mangoled it up until she convinced herself I told her to shut up”). Now remember it in detail: the sounds, pitch of the voice, visual cues, even the ambient temperature. Now note your heart and respiratory rates. Perhaps even the flush of your skin. See how long-term sins can affect you even now. I believe that if you truly forgive someone, you can recollect that moment and not experience that negative zone. How do we do that?
      My personal approach is a combination of scientific (secular) practices such as NLP, some Eastern influences such as mindfulness and meditation (although meditation has also been a Christian practice and value throughout 2 millennia), and supposedly Christian values such as loving your neighbor as yourself:
Find a place to relax that brings you peace. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. I wish for Christianity’s sake that the word “mantra” wasn’t so scary but having a word or phrase to help you focus your concentration is a wonderful spiritual gift. Mine is “Shalom.” When my thoughts wonder or when my breathing rate increases, I repeat the word mentally. When you are relaxed and able to focus, bring to mind the person who sinned against you again, real or imagined. Ask God to help you forgive that person. With God’s help, forgive him or her. If there is any tension involved with remembering the incident, ask God for more help. Give thanks. Have peace in what you have done. You have done that not only for your health but for your spiritual evolution. And importantly, for that other person. It is a win-win situation.

Shalom!

Forgiveness: Overcoming the Impossible by Matthew West
 

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