• Atma Central Wisdom

A Change of Heart: Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness -- By Sharon Burch, ARPN

When we forgive someone, it doesn't mean that what they've done is ok. It means we don't carry bitterness about their actions, which frees us of the power they had over us. The person may never acknowledge the hurt they caused us, but we are hurting ourselves when we hold onto that hurt and anger. Additionally, Forgiveness has multiple health benefits, including better sleep, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, less chronic pain, more energy, and a longer life expectancy.

"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." ~ Saint Augustine

It is important to clarify here​ that I'm talking about forgiving someone after getting yourself to safety. Forgiveness is not a healthy practice if it's keeping you in an abusive situation. Often, when we're still in the extreme stress or even trauma of a situation, we need to focus first on our safety and recovery.

‘Forgiveness is aptly described as “a change of heart,”’ wrote Kathleen Lawler when she summarized a series of her studies on the impact of forgiveness on cardiac health. At Duke University, researchers found a strong correlation between forgiveness and improved immune system function.

At the same time, it may be that forgiveness of oneself is more critical to health-related outcomes than other forms of forgiveness. Still, self-forgiveness is much more complicated because you are both the offender and the offended. The problem is compounded by the fact that we rarely offend ourselves in isolation from offending others.

Robert Enright, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin and an early researcher on forgiveness, recommends that when we struggle with self-forgiveness, we start learning to forgive others first and then expand the practice to include ourselves. True self-forgiveness also requires stopping the behavior that led to the offense.

Specific steps toward forgiveness include feeling the emotions you authentically feel, expressing them to someone with whom you feel safe, then taking action to leave them in the past where they no longer have power over you.

By itself, time does not heal all wounds. Often, letting go of hurt and anger takes work. We are honored to help you find your own best way to forgiveness in its myriad of benefits and freedoms.


If you find yourself wanting to forgive but failing at it, Sharon Burch, APRN, is available to guide you. Sharon can also help you with many aspects of holistic mental health and well-being. Contact her at 785/760-0695 for your first (free!) visit. You can see more at http://atmaclinic.com/practitioners.

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