Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Forgiveness and Health
The belief that forgiveness can improve physical health is found in religious writings and in the recommendations of some health professionals. Forgiveness can facilitate the repair of supportive close relationships and such relationships are known to protect against negative health outcomes. Marital conflict is associated with poorer health and with specific illnesses such as cancer, cardiac disease, and chronic pain (Schmaling & Cher 1997), and hostile behaviors during conflict relate to alterations in immunological (Kiecolt-Glaser et al.,1997), endocrine (Glaser 1994), and cardiovascular functioning.
Unforgiveness, which often occurs as a result of having been hurt, humiliated, angered, or having suffered fear or loss, feelings of guilt, or envy, can have profound affects on the way our body functions. Muscles tighten causing imbalances or pain in neck, back and limbs. Blood flow is decreased. Normal processes of repair and recovery from injury are impaired. Chronic pain may be worsened. Forgiveness is often one of the keys in restoring or maintaining health.
Unforgiveness can be conceptualized as a stress reaction. Forgiveness can be used as an emotion-focused coping strategy to reduce a stressful reaction to a transgression. Direct empirical research suggests that forgiveness is related to health outcomes and to mediating physiological responses to stress, thereby coping strategy. Indirect mechanisms might also affect the forgiveness-health relationship. Namely, forgiveness might affect health by working through social support, relationship quality, and religion.