Relationships require work. This is a truth of which I’m certain we can all agree. While the value of relationships to our health greatly outweighs the cost, sometimes, this reality can become clouded when an offense or wound has occurred. Such hurt can not only decay a relationship, but have a very negative impact on our health. While total restoration is not always in our control, forgiveness is
Forgiveness is a powerful pardon which we can extend to someone regardless of their repentance. When we choose to forgive, we arrest bitterness and stress which burdens our health. Karen Swartz, MD. at John Hopkins Hospital explains, “Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.” Therefore, this choice to pardon not only releases the forgiven one, but sets us free from the consequences of harboring unforgiveness.
Importantly, it is also necessary that trust is part of our intimate relationships--trusting the other’s words, actions, and intentions to be “for us and not against us.” When the elements discussed in part 1 and 2 of how to build a healthy relationship are incorporated, trust is possible. Offense is not easily taken when we are confident that someone is on our side. This prevents us from so much conflict and stress because, so often, offenses result from miscommunication rather than intentional wrong.
Last of all, ideal communication has two parts: we extend forgiveness AND choose not to be offended. In this way, our communication allows the relationship to experience restoration and growth. Regardless, if restoration is not afforded, we can still determine forgiveness in our own hearts and move on personally.
In conclusion, I encourage you to reflect on the “status” of your relationships. Are there opportunities for you to extend forgiveness or let go of offense? Where can you personally take action and experience freedom in your health? To build relationships with this in mind will take courage as you confront your feelings and resolve hurts. However, the potential for change is undeniably in your favor.