Is Forgiveness a Public Health Issue?
Thursday August 16th 2018, 9:38 pm
Filed under: medicine and religion,public health,spirituality and mental health

By Tyler VanderWeele

It’s said that to err is human and to forgive is divine, but forgiveness may be a health-promoting behavior as well. Though often considered to be a very personal behavior, often linked with ethics or religion, a recent meta-analysis of 54 interventional studies on forgiveness suggests that this act has major health benefits as well. [4]

Forgiveness is sometimes defined as the victim’s choice reduce negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and replace these with positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors toward the offender.[1-3]  It should be noted that forgiveness is distinct from condoning, justifying, or sanctioning the behavior of the wrongdoer, and it is not appropriate in situations of ongoing, sustained violence or abuse.

One example of community forgiveness comes from a 2016 incident in which a young, intoxicated man vandalized a mosque in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He subsequently realized the cruelty of his impulsive act, apologizing to the mosque community and asking for their forgiveness, which they freely gave. [8]. The members of the mosque community did not justify or excuse his actions but they made clear that they forgave him for and did not want to ruin his life. One member of the mosque wrote on social media, “we forgave you from the first time you apologized, don’t let that mistake bring you down  […] we don’t hold grudges against anybody!” The mosque members even asked for a more lenient sentence for the offender; though the case was eventually treated as a felony courts. However, sustained by the forgiveness of the community he had wronged, the former vandal gained a deeper awareness of the effects of his actions on others and become determined to never again commit such a heinous act. [8] (more…)