We know the power of forgiveness. We are Executive Relationship Coaches and have been coaching others on how to forgive since we started in 1995 with court-mandated domestic violence cases. When we saw this article yesterday we were not surprised.
Doctors are recognizing that patients who refuse to forgive often stay sick.
"Harboring these negative emotions, this anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety," Dr. Michael Barry said.
"Chronic anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body's foot soldier in the fight against cancer."
Forgiveness Therapy is now being looked at as a way to help treat cancer. (You can read more here http://go.cbn.com/1089.) And the reality is that we don’t choose to accept clients who do not agree in advance to forgive everyone. It just isn’t worth our time to work with anyone who insists on keeping and carrying their pain.
And this is the problem: most people have huge misunderstandings about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not make what happened okay, does not let anyone out of being accountable for his or her actions, and is in fact the best first step for building boundaries.
Brené Brown, an incredible researcher and mentor, mentions an important piece about forgiveness that we noticed in the very beginning (if you don’t know who she is, look her up on Ted.com or her website, brenebrown.com). She states in her latest book Rising Strong that feeling the pain is the key ingredient to forgiveness. We think Brené’s next book will be about forgiveness now that she has the research behind it that she was looking for over the past 10 years, and we look forward to it.
This “feeling of the pain” that she talks about is why we developed our Feeling Wheel 4.0. (WHEEL)
As it turns out from the newest research we have to feel our pain, express it healthfully, and choose to forgive the person or the situation. This happens very often before we would ever want to forgive someone or a situation, and way before we actually feel forgiveness in our hearts and bodies. And we need to do these three things in order for forgiveness to do its magic. We love magic.
And it is magic. Our favorite story to tell comes from 2006. We had a 60-year-old woman come to us and ask us to help her leave her husband, and we’ll call her Jan. She hated him, she despised her adult children who were withholding her grandchildren from her, and she hated the dog. Jan also had a laundry list of medical issues including depression, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and many more. In fact, her doctor had suggested she come to us. So she got her very first checking account so she could pay us. She finished the process in about six weeks.
We saw Jan three months later on the sidewalk. We did not even recognize her. Not only was her hair done up and she was dressed better than we had seen, she was walking fast and smooth, rather than with her arthritic limp that we were so familiar with. If Jan had not called us by name as we began to pass by, we would have never known who it was. She stopped us and told us she was back in the bedroom with Joe, the kids were bringing the grandkids over to spend time with them every week, and she even loved the dog! What a fantastic transformation!
We ended up asking Jan about her health, and she informed us that she was off most of the meds and felt better than she had in years. She also asked us an all-important question: were we seeing Joe behind her back??? He had changed so much that she figured he must be coming to see us. The cool thing is, we didn’t even know Joe, and we told her as much. She laughed, and we surmised that it was the changes in her that had changed him. One person can make a huge difference in any relationship.
So, yes we know the power of forgiveness. Jami’s upcoming book, Silhouette of a Man: Becoming Conscious, profiles how forgiveness, coupled with the other tools that we give to our clients, saved our marriage sixteen years ago from pretty much the worst mess you can think of, and is healing a difficult relationship with Jami’s dad (as well as many others).
No matter what else you do, please learn about the tools it takes to truly forgive. Who knows what other benefits you will find along the way.