Can you have empathy and compassion for someone who has hurt you? That is an essential quality of forgiveness. And forgiveness has clear health benefits – by fostering a stronger sense of self, reducing stress, and is an antidote to toxic anger. Psychological research has found a strong connection between accumulated lifetime stress and mental health difficulties – but that connection disappears for people who score high on measures of forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. It takes time and practice. It is not about forgetting or ignoring what happened, and its not about turning away from the hurt. Research on over 50 studies of forgiveness in therapy finds that there is a strong dose-response relationship: the more time people spend trying to forgive, the more successful they become at it – and people then experience less anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms.