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Forgiveness can be like a flower, the benefits of which open to fullness over time.  You need to allow time to see the benefits of forgiveness, both psychological and physical.  A study, reported in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, showed an intriguing window into the benefits of forgiveness, which included improved physical symptoms such as heart rate and blood pressure, as well as decreased need for medication and reduced alcohol use.  

In an abstract on the report, found on the National Institutes of Health website, it says, “These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness-health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger.” [1]  Forgiveness is a gift you give others, but it is first a gift you give to yourself.  

How much do I have to forgive?  Forgiveness, like acceptance, is a process.  Forgiveness, as a process, has its own built-in momentum.  Once you begin to forgive and see the benefits in your life, it makes it easier to forgive the next time.  For just about everyone I’ve worked with, however, there is a wrong in their life resistant to forgiveness.  A woman will forgive a hundred other wrongs but come up against a barrier forgiving a certain wrong. The question then arises, How much do I have to forgive? 

There is actually an answer to this question in Scripture.  Jesus and the disciples had a discussion on forgiveness recorded in Matthew 18.  During the discussion, Peter asks Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother?”  (Matt. 18:21). It seems to Peter that seven times would be an acceptable number – seven, that’s quite a bit.  Jesus answers and tells him not seven but seventy times seven (18:22). Does this mean that Jesus is saying you are to forgive the 490th time but not the 491st?  NO, it’s not about numbers but about attitude.  

You might also ask if you have to forgive someone who has not asked for forgiveness.  This can be especially challenging if the person has not acknowledged their need for forgiveness.  People who do wrong can have a stubborn refusal to see it, accept it, and take responsibility for it.  

While there are some people who will see no need for forgiveness out of denial, others may not see a need for forgiveness because they do not see their actions as wrong in the first place.  You need to be open to the possibility that the other person does not accept responsibility or acknowledge the wrong done. If you want to be clear in order to help them understand it, look first to yourself and evaluate the truth of the situation.  In a majority of misunderstandings and fractured relationships, I’ve found there are generally enough specks and planks to go around. 

While there are instances where one person is clearly and unequivocally in the wrong, for a large number of other instances, there is simply shared blame.  If you can acknowledge your own failures in the situation, it may be easier for the other person to admit their wrongdoing.  

If you are struggling with forgiveness and anger, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

[1] The International Journal of Psychophysiology Epub 2008 Jan 17 ($relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed).