I was recently reading Suzanne Fisher’s book, Amish Peace, which has a chapter on “Forgiveness”. In that chapter, she refers to a study (“The Stanford Forgiveness Project”), which found, not too surprisingly, that those who completely forgave others had reduced stress symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, fatigue and muscle pain.
Leading up to that finding, she gives two examples of fatal accidents where the victim’s family of the first incident completely forgives the individual whose negligence caused the harm. In the second instance, the father in the victim’s family does not forgive the perpetrator and ultimately endures such pain that he takes his own life.
There needn’t be such extreme cases to raise the question as to whether pain can be relieved through clearing our thought of blaming and condemning others or ourselves, rather than adding chemicals to the body.
In my own experience, I have never found blame useful. I can recall an incident where I had taken an axe to an old tree root that needed removing. At one point the root was not yielding to the axe and I got upset with the root and really gave it a whack. The axe head sprung up and struck me in the forehead. That wasn’t the outcome I was looking for. But I needed to stop blaming the root, and the axe, and myself, to find my peace. The wound on my head healed quickly, without evidence of the incident.
Sometimes, we carry wrongs done to us and develop habits of blame that we think we are justified in maintaining. Who is it that is hurt by this? Does the blame spring back and make the healing of wounds difficult? Perhaps, we are well advised by the Amish sense of complete and immediate forgiveness, which is taught in the Scriptures in such examples as Jacob’s wrestling with an injured hip and how that was healed in overcoming his sense of guilt regarding deceiving his brother over inheritance. He found release in a better understanding of his relationship to God, good, the same source to which the Amish turn.
There is much historical evidence, along with the recent Stanford study, regarding the correlation of forgiveness and health.
[Posted from Ambleside, Cumbria, UK]