As social creatures, we humans continuously interact with others. Our interpersonal relationships are crucial in terms of satisfying our social needs, as well as finding out more about ourselves. Each relationship is like a mirror as we try to figure out who we are while interacting with others and relating to them. We evolve, grow and flourish through our relationships. Besides, relationships are also great sources of social support. From dealing with daily hassles to making important choices, we ask for others’ help. As many research studies pointed out, healthy and functional relationships are vital for a happy and meaningful life.
However, our relationships do not always go well. There is always a possibility to be hurt by others, intentionally or unintentionally. Getting hurt means pain, and we don’t like pain. But a very important aspect of interpersonal relationships is forgiveness. Forgiveness reminds people of supressing, forgetting, or denying the situations or events. However, researchers define forgiveness as releasing the negative emotions intentionally and voluntarily and setting yourself free. Forgiving others is more about setting yourself free than helping the other person feel better. You don’t have to go on with the relationship when you forgive someone, and forgiving doesn’t mean that you approve the behaviour of that person.
Have you ever thought how forgiving you are in your relationships? If not, it’s worth considering since forgiveness has a positive effect on happiness of a relationship and happiness in general. Many studies show that an inability to forgive others is related to emotions such as shame, guilt, anger and therefore may result in stress-related health issues. On the other hand, forgiving is positively correlated with many aspects of wellbeing such as happiness and life satisfaction. Based on such findings, researchers have even developed intervention programs which have aim to help people to learn how to forgive others. In one of these studies by Allemand and his colleagues, participants attended a psychoeducational group on forgiveness which consisted of two sessions each taking 150 minutes. After the program, when the participants were compared to those in the control group who did not attend the intervention, a significant difference in terms of negative affectivity was observed – the intervention program was effective in reducing the participants’ negative affect.
Of course, our character strengths like forgiveness are strengths when they are used in moderation. If you’re known as “the forgiving person” by others, they may use every opportunity to get what they want from you, then your strengths can become a weakness. In that case, being a forgiving person will not add to your wellbeing; in fact, it may even decrease it. So, use it wisely.
To read more:
Allemand, M., Steiner, M. & Hill, P.L. (2013). Effects of a Forgiveness Intervention for Older Adults. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60 (2), 279-286.
Lawler-Row, K. A.,& Piferi, R. L. (2006). The forgiving personality: Describing a life well lived? Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 1009-1020.
Worthington, E. L., Jr. (2006). Forgiveness and reconciliation: Theory and practice. New York: Brunner-Routledge