Forgiveness and Thankfulness – 2 Keys to Mental Health

 

As a staff nurse I saw so many people – in and out of hospital – who are not content: they dwell on past hurts or their own failings, and often blame others for the lack of richness in their lives. I spent time doing a literature search of Forgiveness Therapy

I wrote this article a few years ago when I was still working as a staff nurse on a busy acute admissions ward at our local mental health unit on the edge of the New Forest, Hampshire, UK

There’s healing power in having an attitude of thankfulness and a forgiving spirit. They can enrich our lives and bring inner peace.

It’s good to count our blessings; all those good things in our lives — both big and small. Bob Gass listed some in a recent Word for Today.

‘The alarm rings and we groan that it’s time to get up. Be thankful. We can hear; some are deaf. We shut our eyes to the morning light. Be thankful; some are blind. It’s an effort to get up; we feel stiff and tired. Be thankful; some are bed-ridden. Our jobs may be boring and our efforts unappreciated. Be thankful; some are unemployed.’ (my paraphrase)

You may not be blind, deaf, bed-ridden and unemployed — but you get the picture. We can all think of someone worse off than ourselves and be thankful for what we do have.

My Pastor, Tim, spoke about thankfulness recently. He told us about a married person whose spouse was only 80% perfect. So they had an affair with someone who could supply the other 20%. Too late they realised that they had settled for 20% instead of the 80% they had had. What a sad place to be in.

Be thankful, and be forgiving.

Doctors were asked which emotions cause the most physical illness. They named anger and unforgiveness. Over time, these emotions release deadly toxins into our bodies.

But forgiveness is difficult and many say that they cannot forgive – they can’t forgive because they don’t understand what forgiveness is, and what it is not.

Firstly, forgiveness is not forgetting. The expression ‘forgive and forget’ causes many to say, ‘I can’t forgive because I can’t forget’. Forgiveness involves not going over past hurts in our minds, not keeping on telling other people about how we have been wronged in the past. Forgiveness is not forgetting, it is choosing not to remember, choosing not to go on reminding ourselves of past hurts.

Secondly, forgiveness is not saying that it doesn’t matter. It does matter. Why else would we still be hurting after all these years? Forgiveness involves acknowledging the hurt, choosing to forgive and then moving on.

Forgiveness is an act of will, not a feeling. Forgiveness is choosing not to seek revenge. Some would say that forgiveness is not fair; it’s letting those who have wronged us off the hook. Some would say of those who have hurt them that hanging is too good for them.

Christians should know that they can leave it to God to repay: always remembering that Jesus paid the price, the price for all our sins – mine, yours and our enemies’ – when He, the truly innocent one, hung in agony on that cross.

Let us learn how to choose to forgive, as Jesus did on the cross, so that we can put the past behind us and allow the power of forgiveness to unlock our future. We don’t have to be a Christian to do this, but we have more reasons to forgive if we are.

But Christians don’t have the monopoly on forgiveness – we can all forgive, let go of the past and unlock our future.

It is never too late to choose to be free: free from the chains of resentment and bitterness over past hurts, and free to move on into all that the future holds for us.

Bob Gass writes ‘Word for Today’ and frequently encourages us to be thankful and to forgive. He also writes on other issues which are key to our mental health and well-being.

Word for Today’ is available at: www.ucb.co.uk

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About Sandra Delemare

follower of Jesus, retired mental health nurse, writer. Interests: crochet, photography, wildlife I blog on biblical meditation, mental health and crochet. I'm also posting a series on my life story so people know where I'm coming from.
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15 Responses to Forgiveness and Thankfulness – 2 Keys to Mental Health

  1. sp56h says:

    The idea of forgiveness being an act of will not feeling stood out for me but the trouble is emotions often get in the way. You think you’ve forgiven someone and then something else happens and past hurts come back. It seems to be a constant struggle with certain things. There is a lot to think about here!

    • delemares says:

      so true about emotions getting in the way. I intend posting more on forgiveness – how it is a process, not just a one off. Can be a real struggle. I think Jesus had this in mind when he said about forgiving 70 x 7 times (or whatever the translation says – a lot, anyway)
      Thanks for your comments.

  2. sp56h says:

    The idea of forgiveness as an act of will rather than a feeling has made me think! Lots to ponder over.

  3. a good post – and interesting – thank you. I wrote about the healing power of forgiveness, both for the individual and the effect on global healing, in my book, and have a blog about it which I have resurrected, posting tomorrow. The book I mention in that blog, by Johann Christoph Arnold, The Lost Art of Forgiving – Stories of Healing from the Cancer of Bitterness, is also a jolly good book. I’m really interested in this whole topic of social healing, a movement started I believe by The Institute of Noetic Science, or IONS, a few years ago when I was starting my research.
    Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this on your comments – if you do, feel free to delete it!
    all best Eleanor

    • delemares says:

      I don’t mind at all, Eleanor. I was interested to read about research into forgiveness therapy when I was nursing and wondered if I could incorporate it into my practice. I suppose I did in a way. I had some DBT training, and the concept of acceptance and the use of mindfulness to avoid negative thoughts is perhaps the first step in the process of forgiveness.
      I’m very interested in all things to do with forgiveness, and will be interested to read your blog.

    • delemares says:

      I tried to leave a comment on your blog, Eleanor, re forgiveness, but had problems. Yours adds to mine – very interesting.

      • I’m sorry you are experiencing problems – I’ve just been over there and sent a test comment and it has worked OK – what problem do you have and I’ll try to sort.

        • delemares says:

          I kept trying the typing of the random ‘words’ and it wouldn’t accept them. I sent a message to that effect. I’ll have another go in a mo –

          no joy, still having the same prob even though I tried leaving a comment through my google account.

          my comment was:
          This is great – adds much to my own blog on forgiveness and thankfulness.
          I’m planning on getting a copy of your book.
          This is so much what people need to hear – and put into practice!

  4. I am not sure where you are getting your info, but good topics about prostate cancer. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this blog for my mission.

    • delemares says:

      I’m not sure how this fits with prostate cancer – maybe about acceptance.
      My dad died of prostate cancer nearly 20 years ago. He had a peaceful end – made his peace with God
      Hope some of this helps your followers.
      As for where I get the info – I’ve been studying and meditating on the bible for 40+ years – and lots of reading on the subject – some in connection with my mental health nurse training

    • delemares says:

      Also, I’d reccomend the link to Bob Gass’ Word for Today at http://www.ucb.co.uk
      Our mental health and physical health are linked – good mental health give positive outcomes for our physical health and vice versa

  5. I love this post! Excellent. You’re right, it is not a feeling, you are so spot on. It is a conscious choice!

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