Research has revealed that forgiveness may have beneficial effects for the forgiver’s health. The present research explored whether reductions in anger underlie such effects, or whether forgiveness has beneficial health effects above and beyond the effects of decreasing anger. State and trait forgiveness were examined, along with styles of anger expression, for their relationship to physiological responses during recalled betrayal, and to self-reported health indices. State and trait forgiveness were negatively associated with anger-out; however, with one exception, no other styles of anger expression were linked with forgiveness. Both forgiveness and anger-out were associated with systolic blood pressure, heart rate and rate-pressure product. Partial correlations revealed that trait forgiveness accounted for significant variance in mean systolic blood pressure and rate-pressure product, and state forgiveness predicted mean heart rate, even after gender and anger-out had been controlled. On the other hand, anger-out fully mediated the trait forgiveness–heart rate and state forgiveness–rate pressure product effects. Trait forgiveness was significantly associated with fewer medications and less alcohol use, lower blood pressure and rate pressure product; state forgiveness was significantly associated with lower heart rate and fewer physical symptoms. Neither of these sets of findings were the result of decreased levels of anger-out being associated with forgiveness. These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness–health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger.
Source: “Forgiveness, physiological reactivity and health: The role of anger” from International Journal of Psychophysiology, Volume 68, Issue 1, April 2008, Pages 51-58
The title of this post may be misleading… While it doesn’t require physical labor or years of training, we all know that sometimes forgiving can be the hardest thing to do.
Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.