One of my favorite places to volunteer is Gilda’s Club, which is a world wide, non-residential cancer support community for those living with cancer, as well as for their family and friends. Created by Gene Wilder, Joanna Bull and Michael Radner (the husband, counselor/friend and brother, respectively of Saturday Night Live launched comedian extraordinaire Gilda Radner who died of ovarian cancer in 1989), Gilda’s Club’s red door has welcomed through it, amazing speakers, teachers and musicians to educate and entertain its members. One such wonder is Jon Michaels; a singer-songwriter from Nashville. He was invited to perform by Philadelphia based culinary Goddess Christina Pirello whose natural foods cooking show Christina Cooks is now on 150 PBS affiliates and on Comcast. Jon is now a sweet addition to her show and accompanies Christina as she whips up yummy and healthy treats.
One of my favorite songs of Jon’s (and there are so many:), is called The Gift Of Forgiveness
So often, we self righteously cling to anger and resentment, thinking that it somehow protects us from future pain, or makes us feel like we bear no responsibility for our choices. It also renders us victims of other people’s actions…or so we think. Forgiving doesn’t excuse or justify inappropriate or deliberately hurtful behavior, but it does free us from the chains that drag us down.
So, what are the benefit of forgiveness?
According to About.com:
Forgiveness is good for your heart — literally. One study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief. This can bring long-term health benefits for your heart and overall health.
A later study found forgiveness to be positively associated with five measures of health: physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints. It seems that the reduction in negative affect (depressive symptoms), strengthened spirituality, conflict management and stress relief one finds through forgiveness all have a significant impact on overall health.
A third study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that forgiveness not only restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the offending party (in other words, forgiveness restores the relationship to its previous positive state), but the benefits of forgiveness spill over to positive behaviors toward others outside of the relationship. Forgiveness is associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity, and other altruistic behaviors. (And the converse is true of non-forgiveness.)
When people offer forgiveness to others and to themselves, they have happier relationships, reduced feelings of stress, feel lighter in general.
One exercise that may help you to engage in the forgiveness process (and for many, it is indeed a process), is to visualize the person you wish to forgive, as a young, innocent child. See them as being a bundle of love that they were at birth. Allow feelings of love to flow through you, splashing over onto them. When you experience warmth toward someone else, it comes through you first, so you reap the benefit as well. Even if you never tell the other person what you are doing, you may be surprised at the outcome.
Grudges get heavier the longer we carry them. Are you willing to lighten your load today?
Christina Pirello www.christinacooks.com
Jon Michaels www.jonmichaelsmusic.com
Gilda’s Club www.gildasclub.org