Forgiveness is Good for You

| May-June 2009

Think of a time when somebody hurt you. Maybe your sister stole your wallet (or your boyfriend), or an uncouth BMW cut you off on the freeway? Now breathe deeply for a few moments; release your frustration. Forgive.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but as Greater Good (Fall 2008) reports, psychologists have found that pardoning those people who dare to conspire against our happiness is good for our mental and physical health. Forgiveness techniques have been studied in the United States, and psychologists have now tested them in the post-conflict country of Sierra Leone, which is recovering from a brutal civil war in which nearly 500,000 people were killed or wounded. The trick is to start small—forgive the friend who stole from you, not the neighbor who killed your brother—and to understand that forgiveness needn’t replace justice.