True Nature Of The Act of Forgiveness Essay

Biological Effect of Releasing Interpersonal Debts

A natural part of human life is causing interpersonal debts on other people, whether intentionally or accidentally. These debts can take the form of physical pain or emotional pain, but it has two forms of payment regardless of the form. Interpersonal debts can be either repaid for via retaliation, which in exchange creates a new interpersonal debt, or it can be fully released through forgiveness of the debt in its entirety. The method of retaliation often escalates with each pass of the debt until greater harm is done consequently causing both parties to feel additional pain than originally. This method has no benefits despite what each person may contemplate while carrying out the debt. While retaliation has no benefits, it is often used by victims due to “deeply ingrained biological, psychological, and cultural levels of human nature” (Snyder and Lopez 2002). The act of forgiving, however, has been known to cause not only emotional benefits, such as a guilt-free conscious, but physical benefits in addition. Forgiveness is a healthier path due to it having a plethora positive symptoms, benefits to sickened individuals and its correlation with age adding positive long-term benefits.

There are numerous correlations to forgiveness with emotional benefits, but there is quite a bit of debate over the physical effects of forgiveness. There are arguments about the level of benefits acquired from chronic forgiveness, but numerous researchers and scientists would agree on the symptoms that come with the constant release of interpersonal debts. These symptoms, unlike most side-effects of medicine, are positive correlations stemming from the understanding of forgiving individuals. The four main symptoms of forgiveness are: “a lowered number of medicines taken by an individual, self-reports of improved sleep quality, lack of fatigue, and avoiding somatic complaints” (Lawler et al 2005). The reasoning for these symptoms can be understood simply by breaking down the body’s emotional response to holding a grudge as opposed to releasing the pain. When someone holds onto the suffering they have gone through, they are typically more stressed and often reflect about the situation. When they encounter a memory with the transgressor, they will become overwhelmed with fear, anger, sadness or other intense feelings that they have bottled up. These feelings often lead to retaliation which in turn creates added negative feelings for both parties involved. This would lead an individual to stress over the situation constantly, thus losing the length and quality of sleep and increasing the chances for psychological issues such as depression or anxiety. When a person releases an individual from the debt they’ve created, the feelings and stress are still there but they slowly heal with time. If someone were to chronically forgive their transgressors, they wouldn’t be forced to confront the intense feelings or negative repercussions as strongly, but instead they would feel some or all of the positive symptoms, listed before, that are opposite to the negative situation’s counterparts.

It is easy to observe that younger people tend to be more rebellious and less understanding simply by looking at their actions. As they grow older, they seem to lose their insubordinate actions, perhaps since they shove it into their psychological bag according to Robert Bly’s “Bag Theory.” Robert Bly, an American author and psychologist, wrote about every human carrying with them a bag in his book “A Little Book on the Human Shadow.” In this metaphorical bag every individual puts their pain, anguish, and anything else society regards to be wrong. This leaves an individual with a sense of what is right and a large bag to carry through life. Regardless of why age adds to the understanding of a person, research done by Worthington and Scherer shows that older adults were more likely to forgive and felt forgiven more often than the younger generation (2004). So, according to this study, the older generation are typically the ones who show the greatest benefits of forgiveness. The question I would raise to all the research being done is whether or not elder people are more forgiving due to the experience they have gained through dealing with the situations or if their psychological bag as discussed by Robert Bly has left them to be more compassionate. In either case, studies have shown age increases the likelihood a person will release interpersonal debts with a higher rate of positive symptoms.

In addition to positive symptoms stemming from forgiveness, there is also an internal physical improvement for those who are able to quickly forgive those who hurt them. Although a definite experiment involving religion and prayer in physical healing hasn’t been conducted, there is evidence that someone who is more forgiving is able to recover more quickly. According to studies done by Wilson et al, people who forgive more often tend to have improved immune functioning (2008). This study would show that forgiving people will spend less time in the hospital due to their improved immune system allowing them to cure diseases more quickly. The study, however, doesn’t discuss the effects on physical injuries such as broken bones or fractures. It would make sense that physical injuries would require nearly the same healing time, due to microorganisms not being present for the immune system to attack. Physical injuries aren’t totally unaffected by chronic forgiveness, though, as possible infections could be healed more rapidly by the improved immunity. This relates back to the number of medicines that a compassionate person would be required to take because their immune system would be able to fight more rigorously than other immune systems. Many would probably wonder why elderly spend more time in the hospital even though it has already been discussed that they are more forgiving than others. Without adding in the forgiving factor, elders have more health issues than those younger generations, so it would be unfair to compare forgiving elders to younger people. Generally, the older a person becomes, the more compassionate and forgiving they are thus their rate of healing compared to other elders would be greater.

Forgiveness has been known to have a myriad of positive symptoms, benefits to sickened individuals and has a correlation with age. The idea of forgiveness versus retaliation has intrigued people for decades as psychologists tried to uncover the mystery of our instincts and more recently, doctors and researchers have delved into the power of forgiveness and compassion. With all of these positive physical and emotional attributes for releasing interpersonal debts, it is a wonder to many as to why retaliation is a basic human reaction to inflict pain. People feel the need to “level” the playing field by putting the same amount of pain, which is usually more than expected, onto their transgressor. Instead of trying to bring others down to the level you believe you’ve been placed, one should release the pain and raise themselves up to a place full of healing. These effects to releasing interpersonal debts should be enough to persuade any individual to not only consider forgiveness as a method of healing, but to skip the step of retaliation that is written into our basic human instincts.

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