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The Value of Forgiveness

If I develop bad feelings toward those who make me suffer, this will only destroy my own peace of mind. But if I forgive, my mind becomes calm.

Dalai Lama

Why Forgive

When we think about forgiving, we often associate it with healing and letting go of negative emotions. After all, we know that harboring negative emotions can be very stressful and unhealthy, physically as well as emotionally.  According to Dr. Fred Luskin (2003, 2009), forgiveness leads to a reduction in depression, anger, stress, cardiovascular disease and pain. It promotes hope, compassion, self-confidence and a positive immune response.

Forgiveness does not just happen. It is a process. The duration and struggle are different for individuals and situations. Consider scenarios where you might want to feel calmer. Do they relate to a store clerk that was rude, neglectful parents, abuse, an unfaithful partner, disobedient children, rejection, abandonment, death? Rather than feel consumed by anger, hurt and grief, a measure of forgiveness can foster the ability to cope.

Forgiveness does not translate to defeat or resignation. It is not agreeing that you deserved to be wronged. It does not mean that what the individual did or said was okay. Instead, it is about accepting that something adverse did happen; we can’t turn back the clock, but suffering results from our resistance to accepting what has happened. Do you want to continue suffering?

So, You Feel Wronged…Now What?

Perhaps you don’t want to forgive. That is your prerogative but what if some level of forgiving can help you feel better. Maybe there is a way that you can feel calmer and more at peace. What if forgiving removes emotional barriers and creates psychological distancing so you can experience happiness?

Humor and laughter are powerful tools that can play a significant role in the process of forgiveness. A shift in perspective can ease the process of forgiveness while not condoning the hurtful actions.

How Does Humor Play a Role in Forgiveness?

Humor can aid forgiveness by diffusing tension. Emotions like anger, resentment and hurt are quite strong. What humor offers is a moment of relief despite the tension. A well-timed joke or a shared laugh can lighten the atmosphere, which in turn makes it easier to communicate openly and honestly about feelings. It breaks down the emotional walls that may have been preventing forgiveness and allows individuals to recognize each other as humans who make mistakes.

What Role Does Laughter Play in Forgiveness?

Laughing together helps us connect on a deep emotional level. It creates a bond and fosters an environment conducive for forgiveness. This connection can serve as a catalyst for empathy, which helps us to better understand the motives, emotions, and vulnerabilities of the person we are trying to forgive. It humanizes them in our eyes and helps us recognize that, just like us, they are imperfect and capable of making mistakes.

What About Self-Forgiveness?

Often, forgiving ourselves can be even more challenging than forgiving others. We tend to be our own harshest critics. Self-forgiveness requires us to let go of guilt and shame. The value of humor is that it allows us to laugh at our own flaws and mistakes, reminding us that making errors is part of being human. Instead of dwelling on our shortcomings, we can choose to find humor in them and move forward with self-compassion.

I will conclude with a comment by Shauna Shapiro, Ph.D. (2020):

Forgiveness provides us with “a powerful path to reduce our suffering and bring greater dignity and harmony to our life.”

  • Luskin, F. (2003). Forgive for good. New York, NY: HarperOne.
  • Luskin, F. (2009). Forgive for love. New York, NY: HarperOne.
  • Shapiro, S. L. (2020). Rewire your mind: Discover the science + practice of mindfulness. London, UK: Aster.