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“DURING MY CHILDHOOD, I HEARD A LOT OF INSULTS AND SCREAMING,” said a woman named Patricia. “I did not learn to forgive. Even as an adult, I would dwell on an offense for days, losing sleep.” Yes, a life filled with anger and resentment is neither a happy one nor a healthy one. Indeed, studies show that unforgiving people may . . .

  • Let anger or bitterness sour relationships, leading to isolation and loneliness

  • Become easily offended, anxious, or even severely depressed

  • Become so focused on a wrong that they cannot enjoy life

  • Feel that they are at odds with their spiritual values

  • Experience increased stress and a higher risk of ill health, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and pain disorders, such as arthritis and headaches *

WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? Forgiveness means pardoning an offender and letting go of anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge. It does not mean condoning a wrong, minimizing it, or pretending that it did not happen. Rather, forgiveness is a well-thought-out personal choice that reflects a loving commitment to peace and to building or maintaining a good relationship with the other person.

Forgiveness also reflects understanding. A forgiving person understands that we all err, or sin, in word and deed. (Romans 3:23) Reflecting such insight, the Bible says: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.”​—Colossians 3:13.

It stands to reason, then, that forgiveness is an important facet of love, which is “a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) Indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic website, forgiveness leads to . . .

  • Healthier relationships, including feelings of empathy, understanding, and compassion for the offender

  • Improved mental and spiritual well-being

  • Less anxiety, stress, and hostility

  • Fewer symptoms of depression

FORGIVE YOURSELF. Self-forgiveness can be “the most difficult to achieve,” yet “the most important to health”​—mental and physical—​according to the journal Disability & Rehabilitation. What can help you to forgive yourself?

  • Do not expect perfection from yourself, but realistically accept that you​—like all of us—​will make mistakes.​—Ecclesiastes 7:20

  • Learn from your errors so that you will be less likely to repeat them

  • Be patient with yourself; some personality flaws and bad habits may not go away overnight.​—Ephesians 4:23, 24

  • Associate with friends who are encouraging, positive, and kind but who will also be honest with you.​—Proverbs 13:20

  • If you hurt someone, take responsibility for it and be quick to apologize. When you make peace, you will gain inner peace.​—Matthew 5:23, 24


After studying the Bible, Patricia, quoted at the outset, learned to forgive. “I feel liberated from the anger that poisoned my life,” she wrote. “I no longer suffer, and I don’t make others suffer. Bible principles confirm that God loves us and wants the best for us.”

A man named Ron said: “I could not control the thoughts and actions of others. But I could control my own. If I wanted peace, I had to let go of resentment. I began to view peace and resentment as north and south. I could not be in both places at the same time. I now have a good conscience.”

^ par. 8 Sources: Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine websites and the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.