Fear and Forgiveness

Scientists are finding through numerous studies that holding on to grievances is a decision to suffer and rumination is a barrier to forgiveness. It activates negative aroused intense emotion, activating the sympathetic flight and fight response, which impairs positive emotion and the parasympathetic calming system. Researchers have also found out that holding a grudge activates the reward centres of the brain. Grudge holding boosts a sense of control and there are reductions in fear and sadness. But before we run away with the impression that grudge holding is fully good, it also sustains anger, perpetuates elevated blood pressure, increases heart rate associated with flight or fight response. Jesus said we are to love our enemies. We need to have empathy with the humanity of the offender. Seeing our own need for forgiveness prompts humility. If we have a grudge against someone we  can remember that we are both human beings made in the image of God, and they did whatever they did, and this transgression is evidence that they need transformation. This does not justify their actions.  But it reduces anger fear and sadness. It subdues blood pressure heart rate and sweat, renews a sense of control and increases positive emotion with the possibility that happiness and joy may be restored.Invite someone with a grudge to take a closer look at Christ and his church.

A study authored by Dr. Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet at Hope College in Missouri, found that when people focused on hurtful memories or grudges, their blood pressure surged and brow muscles tensed. Witvliet believes we have moved from forgiveness turning people into doormats to ‘genuine forgiveness as a sign of strength, forgiveness benefits the one forgiven, doing the forgiving and those around them. Forgiveness creates a new future that integrates the past.’