Plain and simple... gratitude enables you to draw the positive from the benefits in life. Most people are pleasantly surprised by how gratitude shines light on many of the invisible benefits of life we so often take for granted.
Even challenges can be seen as beneficial, although not always immediately. The benefits of a challenge may take the form of learnings or built character... regardless, situations or circumstances that on the surface wouldn't be considered beneficial (like losing a job or client, a colleague being transferred, not having the time nor resources to complete a project as planned) often are benefits in disguise.
But not every circumstance deserves gratitude. There are situations in which harm comes into one’s life. For example, being defrauded, exploited, or physically assaulted. In these situations, gratitude is likely not the appropriate response, but there is a way for you to draw positive from harm. It is difficult yet very powerful... forgiveness.
Don’t dismiss forgiveness because you think that by forgiving you would somehow be forgetting, condoning or otherwise excusing the behaviour. These commonly held beliefs about forgiveness, according to researchers are the biggest obstacle to forgiving… it is misinterpreted as giving power over to the person(s) who harmed you.
I had never thought about this idea deeply until reading book “Why good things happen to good people”. I am grateful to Stephen Post and Jill Neimark, for introducing me to this idea and establishing the connection between forgiveness and gratitude.
Bottom line, forgiveness is for both the altruistic and the selfish (or more politically correct... enlighten self-interested). The research suggests that forgiveness without conditions is extremely beneficial to the person who's been harmed… and even more beneficial when there is no apology. That’s right… no apology.
The benefits of forgiving are compelling. Forgiving calms the body and mind. Forgiving people:
- are buffered against psychological stress
- less likely to be depressed, hostile, anxious, narcissistic, anxious or exploitative
- less likely to be dependent on drugs or nicotine
- are more likely to be empathetic and experience greater peace, hope, ease, connection, and have greater self esteem
In one study with combat veterans who suffered from PSTD, the blood pressure and arterial pressure of those who scored high on forgiveness were less reactive than low forgivers when they were asked to recall previous conflict.
Further, the desire for revenge or holding a grudge does little more than recreate the original psychological stress… resulting in greater likelihood of depression, anxiety, anger and stress.
So instead of holding a grudge or trying to even the score... let go, forgive and move forward. This advice is easy to give and difficult to carry out, but it’s truly the best way to draw positive from the harms in your life.