When one person forgives another person, how do they benefit? Who find it easier to forgive, women or men? Are older or younger adults more likely to forgive?
When someone is angry, hurt or resentful about what someone else had done or said, they feel bad. Blood pressure and heart rate are likely to increase and the person feels stressed. They may think of the other party simply in terms of being the object of their anger and hurt rather than as a person. They may find it difficult to trust others in general and become depressed or anxious. Some people feel their life lacks purpose and they may find dwelling on past hurt stops them from enjoying the moment.
What is the definition of ‘forgive’? Forgive means, ‘to give pardon for a fault, etc; to cease to resent.’ (Heinemann Australian Dictionary). Once someone has decided to forgive, they may remember the incident or the words spoken but they don’t feel resentment any longer.
What happens to the person carrying out the act of forgiving? Blood pressure and heart rate drop. The person feels calmer, less stressed and stops seeing themselves as a victim. They will feel they have a greater degree of control over their life because they made an active choice to forgive.
Research done by the University of Missouri shows women who forgave rather than holding onto hurt were less likely to suffer depression. The study was done with women of 67 years of age or older but it is likely to be true for other age groups too.
The act of forgiving is likely to bring the benefits of feeling empathy and compassion. Relationships will improve and anxiety levels tend to drop. The immune system is strengthened and self esteem will increase.
Who finds it easier to forgive? Research has found women generally find it easier to forgive than men do. Both men and women are more likely to forgive a wrong if they empathise with the other person, believing they themselves could do something similar under certain circumstances.
Older people are more likely to forgive. There are theories that this is because of life experience which makes it easier to put an event in perspective. Some say older people are more likely to be religious and have the concept of forgiving as part of their personal belief system.
There are studies which suggest older people are more likely to have a high level of agreeableness. This is one of the five major dimensions of personality. People with a high level of agreeableness feel most people are trustworthy, honest and decent. This makes them more likely to forgive, believing the other person is basically good but made a mistake.
Sometimes it is very hard to forgive but where it is possible, there are many benefits in doing so. Forgiving, even though the matter may not be forgotten, helps a person to move on with the rest of their life.