I remember a Sunday School teacher threatening my class with a verse when I was a little boy, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” I remember him teaching that if you don’t forgive, you will not be forgiven and you will be eternally separated from God. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. It is at the heart of all soul work and social justice (because it is the product of the social injustice). I frankly get scared by some of the Christian teachers who teach you to will yourself to forgiveness. You just need to manage/control/forget what you feel, what you think. And, while this may be true of your mother eating one of your Sweedish Fish, it’s not true of someone who has say been abused or raped.
Scientist Dr. Everett Worthington has dedicated his life to the science of forgiveness. His research has shown that people who have a more natural tendency to forgive benefit from lower blood pressure, fewer episodes of depression, less stress, and lower chances of a heart attack. His research shows that because of neurological patterns in some people’s brains, their brains struggle with forgiveness more than others. His work has been developing better outlets for emotions and thoughts in order to rewrite the pattern. Our brains are neurologically wired to experience emotions and thoughts through previous emotions. When we experience an emotion, we’re previously experiencing a moment in our past. Due to a chemical imbalance, and memories that have not been reconciled, some people’s brains need to be rewired to forgive.
Dr. Worthington has developed this method for a process of forgiveness, reconciliation, and experiencing new thoughts and emotions. He calls it REACH:
Recall the hurt
Empathize with the one who hurt you
Altruistic gift of forgiveness, offer
Commitment to forgive, make
Hold on to the forgiveness
Science and our spiritual intuitions are calling and teaching us into a similar pattern of living. Science is showing that people are not wired for revenge, and that there are to many benefits of forgiveness. We just have to rediscover how to re-experience this beautiful life that we were born with, and we are called into.