Forgiveness and happiness

10 11 2014

It’s not uncommon in our lives that we are (or feel we are) not treated well or caused harm by others and we find ourselves unable to forgive them. We strongly seek retribution for the injustice we suffered and often times are overwhelmed by the intense need to undo the past or seek vengeance.

“Forgiveness” seems a concept that is deemed to apply only to those special few, who are either highly spiritual and/or enlightened beings and is not in the capacity of normal “us”.  Even though it appeals to us intellectually, it’s often very hard to assimilate it and put it in practice. I myself was ‘uncomfortable’ with the idea and often wondered how one can/should approach it.

From the Science of Happiness course, I learnt that this delusion is deeply rooted in our misconceptions about what “forgiveness” actually means.

Researchers suggest that Forgiveness involves four components:

  • Acceptance that transgression happened
  • Reduced urge to punish or seek vengeance
  • Decline in avoidance
  • Increase in compassion toward offender for their own suffering

More importantly, Forgiveness is not

  • reconciling with the person who have harmed you
  • condoning the offence
  • absolving the offender of responsibility

Usually, we feel wronged because we expect certain behavior from others and we get something totally different.  Fred Luskin, one of the pioneer researches on Forgiveness gives it a simple definition: forgiveness is the ability to make peace with the word “no.” (Must read: Choice to Forgive)

Please take time to watch the below two videos. They describe the concept most effectively and beautifully. They totally changed my perception about Forgiveness.

(Too bad, no easy way to embed https videos)

But does “forgiveness” always work? What if, the transgression too big? “The big transgressions are not necessarily “unforgivable” because they are big. Instead, big transgressions are often the ones that, if they are ever to be surmounted, must be forgiven.” (Everett L. Worthington Jr.)

By changing our response to the transgression, we can rid ourselves of the negative effects on physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health that result from practicing unforgiveness. Clearly, these benefits lead to more happiness and greater satisfaction in relationships.

But there is an important caveat for the role of forgiveness in marriages. In abusive relationships, in which one partner frequently mistreats the other, the forgiving partner becomes less satisfied with his/her marriage.

Part 8 of Science of Happiness series.

Part 1    Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5    Part 6    Part 7

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4 responses

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