The Benefits of Forgiveness

Roger Meyer (guest columnist)
Comment on this article

Everything we do has a cost. The cost may include money, time, physical or mental exertion, or a toll on our emotional health and well-being. Sometimes, the cost of our actions is imposed on people we love. Failing to forgive others exacts a tremendous cost.

If someone crashes into our automobile, there is not only a monetary cost for repairs, but also the costs of inconvenience, physical trauma, frustration and time exerted in making phone calls, filing insurance claims and obtaining police reports, etc.

There is also a cost for not forgiving another person who has wronged you. In fact, there are tremendous penalties imposed for failure to forgive another person. Forgiving another person can be a hard thing to do, perhaps even seemingly impossible. The person who has wronged us owes us a “debt.” Only the one “holding the note of debt” can choose to forgive it.

In psychology, forgiveness is a deliberate choice to let go of anger and resentment toward the individual who has caused you harm. Forgiveness is as if you forgave a debt.

Medical research conducted in hospitals and universities has discovered health benefits for forgiveness. These benefits include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, decreased stress, less depression and anxiety, improved sleep, less pain and increased psychological well-being. The one who forgives has greater peace of mind. Negativity is replaced with a positive mindset, healthier relationships and even a stronger immune system. These are tremendous physical benefits to the act of forgiving!

But those who hold a grudge, refusing to forgive, will suffer physical penalties for their anger, hatred, bitterness, depression and anxiety, all of which take a toll on their mental and physical well-being.

Those who study the world’s religions understand that one of the most important elements of Christianity is the forgiveness of sin that Jesus Christ has made possible through His crucifixion, endured for the benefit of mankind. His blood covers the penalty for the sins of believers, making possible our reconciliation with God, and extending to us the promise of eternal life.

But the interesting thing is that Jesus Christ requires us to forgive those who wrong us! In fact, it is essential that we do so in order for us to receive His forgiveness! In Luke 6, Jesus instructed His disciples to “…be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (vv. 36–37).

In Matthew 6, in what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” or “Model Prayer,” is Christ’s clear instruction: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (v. 12). After the prayer, Christ explains: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (vv. 14–15). Woah, that is serious! The consequence for not forgiving others is that we will not be forgiven by God, and without His forgiveness we are doomed to death. That is a heavy consequence!

One can research “famous” quotes about forgiveness and see that a few of them capture a glimpse of what it means to forgive, while others miss the mark entirely. For instance, one says that since the Bible says “forgive seventy times seven,” they are keeping a chart. Really?! That totally misses the object lesson! Another said to forgive your enemies because it really annoys them. That also misses the point.

All should read Christ’s parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. It concludes with the clear instruction that we are required to forgive “from the heart” if we are to receive our Father’s forgiveness (v. 35).

This is part of being a true Christian. Our booklet What Is a True Christian? is available free of charge, online or in print, here at Tomorrow’s World.