The Power of Forgiveness for Your Mental Health

During the last semester of my senior year, I took a Philosophy class that would completely alter how I thought about the world around me. It wasn’t a traditional, classical Philosophy class, as we discussed everything from The Allegory of the Cave to The Bell Jar. However, the whole class centered around one theme: being a good person, and our own search for values. In one assignment, we were to choose a memory that had impacted us, write an essay, and read it aloud to the class. No one in the class was exempt from this, including our teacher. In her story, she recounted a story of forgiveness and redemption. In her incredibly moving story, she said one thing that I will never forget:

“Perhaps, forgiving him was more impactful for me than it was for him.”

When she said this, I was in the throes of a tumultuous time in my life. I was still trying to make the decision of where I would call home for the next four years, and through this time of transition I almost lost the most treasured friendship I have had yet.

While I don’t think I come off as a stubborn person, I have always considered myself to be one. As much as I hate to admit it, I hold grudges easily, and I can be a little too head strong in some of my opinions, unable to see the other side. When a misunderstanding came up between my best friend and I in April, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I stubbornly refused to see the other side of the situation, and in turn, entered a deep, dark time of my life.

Although it took me six months, I realized only I had the power to get myself out of this rut, and to do so, I had to forgive him. When I did this, it was almost as if a pressure was relieved from my chest, and I could finally breathe again. At first, I thought this was just a psychological effect that I shouldn’t think twice about. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, letting go of a grudge and reconciling with a difficult situation leads to a stronger immune system, less stress, lower blood pressure, and improved self-esteem.

Spoken from the lens of a stubborn, grudge-holder, as much as I hated to admit it to myself, forgiveness is what I needed to do in order to live a happier, healthier life. Going back to what my philosophy teacher said a few months ago, while showing forgiveness to my best friend certainly helped us reconcile what had happened between us, it was perhaps more beneficial to me than anything, as I was finally able to let go of all the hurt I had been holding onto for six months.

In wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, I don’t want to preach a story about the importance of giving thanks, as a quick Google search will pull up thousands of articles about that topic. Instead, I hope this encourages you to realize the important things in your life, and to realize the benefits of recognizing them. Recognize any faults that you have preformed, and know that sometimes the most important thing to do is give yourself forgiveness. While it can be one of the trickiest things to realize you need, in the end, reconciliation clears the mind and heart, and puts what is important at the forefront.